It has been a little while since I shared some thoughts about moving from RISC due to a 3 month assignment managing the Nehalem-EX product line. One word describes that product, ‘wow’, and the change it will bring to the IT marketplace as we know it. But I’m not here to talk about that….

David Bowie was certainly introspective when he wrote his “Changes” song about his need to constantly look at oneself, previous decisions and the need for frequent reinvention and change. The sentiments reflected within “Changes” can be applied to all aspects of life both personal and business. Reflecting on previous business decisions and looking for newer and better ways to do things should not be seen as the previous decision being wrong, but rather should be rewarded as looking to change and do things better based upon the environment today.

Previous business decisions to deploy your IT solutions on RISC based architectures was most likely the right decision at the time based on the business need, the solutions availability and the architecture available to run that solution.  Some of these solutions are likely due for an upgrade due to changing business needs, a better version of the application now being available or have become to expensive to maintain and support on older server system. It is time to make a change and change is likely to include upgrading to next generation of software solution and choosing a new server system that will perform and work with the software solution.

With the rapid pace of technology innovation and evolution over the last number of years, the decision is not necessarily as clear cut as it may have been in the past.

What I wanted to share with you was some information around how Intel’s Xeon microprocessor has evolved and can now compete with the POWER architecture offered from IBM.  Some of you may say that this is not possible, but Xeon 5500 is getting some attention as shown with information posted on IBM website

Price/performance is a key consideration for database workloads and $ / tpmC is pretty widely accepted as a good rule of thumb. Its good to see that the IBM System x3950M2 (based on the Xeon 7400 processor) has a $1.99 $ / tpmC compared to IBM Power P570  $3.54 $ / tpmC;-)

Xeon 5500 has a performance per socket leadership against a similar class POWER 6 2S system. This can be seen by comparing results at www.spec.orgfor benchmarks such as SPECJbb2005, SPECint-rate 2006 etc. IBM makes reference to performance per core leadership over the Xeon 5500. A fair statement, but most customers look at overall system level performance to do the require task. I guess my key takeaway is that if you are looking for a solution to run infrastructure type workloads and get the best bang for your buck then the Xeon 5500 delivers best price/performance

There is also some interesting discussion around scalability of Xeon Vs POWER6. Xeon 5500 is used in 2 socket configurations, and not in scalable systems. So it seems to be a little like comparing apples to oranges!. Scalable Xeon platforms are available in the market today from both IBM and Unisys. There are also 15+ designs for scalable platforms from 8 OEMs coming with Intel’s next generation scalable Xeon product, Nehalem-EX.  Some good material was shared recently at Intel’s Developer Forum in San Francisco. Look for Mission Critical Server Deployment class at material provides a good overview about how Nehalem-EX provides supportfor high-end computing with a scalable micro architecture, advanced RAS capabilities and how Redhat will support Nehalem-EX scalability. This presentation also shows an example of the innovation of NEC who are developing mission critical Linux solutions based on NEC’s Scalable architecture using Intel Xeon processors.

So is it the time for you to change?. Are existing options like the Xeon 5500 or the Xeon 7400 the right choice for you? Nehalem-EX is coming and I believe will bring a huge change to the marketplace as we know it today.

What do you think?