Replacing big iron with small iron (cash for clunkers 2?)

I wrote a few weeks ago about the end of the mini generation.  This time I thought I would dig out some data to support my case.  My personal anecdotal evidence is what I am hearing from my customers.  They are looking at replacing hundreds of legacy Unix servers with new high performance Xeon boxes.  I am not talking about a one-for-one replacement, but using virtualization to replace 5 to 25 of these older unix boxes with each Xeon 5500 server.  The economic incentives here are pretty staggering.

Why now?

I see multiple reasons

1)  Ecosystem maturity.  Enterprise class tools for virtualization, Linux, high availability from VMware, KVM, Xen, RedHat, Suse and others

2)  Performance.  The performance of 200-2005 vintage sparc and ultra-sparc boxes is easily replaced by Xeon – saving power, space, and potentially licensing.

3)  Applications readiness.  Applications like Oracle are now “made for linux” and do great on X-86 platforms

4)  Staff.  You have the expertise in Linux on Xeon, this is a growing area, capitalize on it.

5)  Economics.  There is real savings to be had in licensing, power, space, staff, sanity( sanity savings is subjective).

I hopped out to to look at some benchmarks.  Benchmarks are notoriously awful as measures of actual performance, but they do work – mostly – as a comparison of relative performance.

There isn’t a lot of Sparc data, and much of it is old, but if you are looking at replacing some aging 4+ year old Unix hardware, that may be just what you need.  (with respects to Bryce’s cash for clunkers blog).

For TPC-C the most recent Sparc result I found was from 2003. Running Oracle Database 10g EE on Sun Solaris 8 on 64 single cores of Fujitsu SPARC64 - 1.3 GHz processors, they delivered 595702 tpmC at $12.43/tpmC (

So if “this old machine" is setting in your landscape, gulping power and support costs, you could replace it today by running Oracle Database 11g SE1 on Oracle Linux 2 quad core Intel Xeon Processors X5570 2.93GHz  delivering 631766 tpmC at $1.08/tpmC (

The ROI on this must be about 10 minutes! Ok maybe that is a bit quick, but this is a data base! Export, Import, ta-da!  What are you going to do with all that extra rack space and power?

Replace a 64 socket platform with a 2 socket platform.  Amazing.  this could be 1U, or even a blade.  You could put it under your desk.  There have got to be some examples of older sparc and power boxes sitting in the landscape. Let me know what you have.