High-end Microsoft Stack Cheaper Than TPC Comparison Suggests

The price difference between extremely high-end Windows-based systems and extremely high-end Unix-based systems isn't as close as a recent Transaction Processing Performance Council TPC-C benchmark implies.

HP's HP-UX 11 operating system and Oracle's 10G Enterprise Edition, a new version of the database Oracle plans to release in September, roundly trounced Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition and SQL Server Enterprise Edition on performance on the TPC-C, a widely watched measure of raw scalability in OLTP environments.

When running basically on the same huge HP Superdome server with 64 Itanium 2 processors, the HP-UX/Oracle combo performed 17 percent better than Windows/SQL. HP-UX/Oracle 10G scored 824,164 transactions per minute on the TPC-C (tpmC). Windows/SQL reached 707,102 tpmC. The cost per transaction for HP-UX/Oracle was $8.28/tpmC on the $6.8 million configuration. Microsoft's cost per transaction was $7.16/tpmC on a $5 million total configuration.

Since the server is the same, this is a pretty good one-to-one comparison of a Microsoft stack versus an HP-UX/Oracle stack on performance and price, right?

Not so fast. For one thing, HP splurged on higher-end storage and used HP-UX/PA-RISC servers as clients, adding significant expense to its configuration. It's unclear what effect that had on performance, but it definitely lifted the cost of the total configuration for HP and Oracle by more than $1 million.

Less obvious is that the way Oracle prices its database for the TPC-C audit hides about one million in cost for the system. The TPC requires the cost to be calculated for running the system for three years, purportedly an attempt to bring a dose of reality to the benchmark by including service and maintenance costs.

Oracle chooses to use its term price for the TPC-C benchmarks, which is legal by the TPC standards. What it means is that Oracle basically provides a lease price for its database -- a user who bought the configuration as reported to the TPC-C would not own Oracle's database at the end of three years. That customer would have to agree to a new lease or pay to buy the rest of the database at that time.

By comparison, in the other benchmark, the listed price for Microsoft's SQL Server $1,064,474, is the price a customer would pay to own it and use it on 64 processors perpetually.

So while the TPC documents list the Oracle 10G Enterprise Edition price at $964,500 including service for three years and discounts, the price of buying the software in a perpetual license with Oracle's standard discount on a 64-processor system would be $1.92 million, nearly twice as much as the price Oracle and HP list. [Source: Oracle's Web site].

In that apples to apples comparison, SQL Server's economics look much better, the total configuration cost for the HP-UX/Oracle system climbs to about $7.8 million and its price/tpmC rises more than a buck to $9.44.

Suddenly the price gap between high-end Unix/Oracle and high-end Windows/SQL isn't quite so close.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.