Server Performance Drives Down IT Costs

Vernon Turner, the Senior Vice President of IDC's Enterprise Infrastructure, Consumer and Telecom research, told us something really interesting the other day.  “I think TCO is top of mind when customers evaluate server infrastructure,” he said. “Performance is important because that drives how many servers are required to achieve the customer’s productivity goals.  And that drives the downstream costs associated with software, power & cooling, rack/floor space, networking and maintenance fees.”

This resonates, and directly relates to questions I’ve heard from IT folks lately:

  • How much is it going to cost to deploy a key enterprise application?
  • What are all the key cost drivers and how can I improve my overall TCO?

I wanted to share with you how I’ve been answering these questions lately.  To illustrate this, I’ll compare a couple of bigger servers and show you how to maximize the key cost drivers and lower TCO when you need to deploy a mission critical enterprise database solution.  Next week I’ll compare a “value 4P” vs. a high-performance two-processor server with the goal of achieving the lowest total cost of ownership for server consolidation using virtualization software.

Kennedy Brown wrote last week about the importance of server performance for database projects.  Enterprise database customers demand a server platform that delivers performance, scalability, large memory capacity and advanced reliability.  So let’s compare the costs of deploying Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 on two different 4 socket industry standard servers from HP.   Pricing derived from HP’s on-line system configuration tool on July 30th, 2010

Licensing costs (plus yearly Software Assurance) for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition on 4-Socket servers is $136k.  (Licensing costs are ~$27k per processor; Software Assurance is ~$7k per processor.)

Given the above pricing, the Intel Xeon based DL580 G5 server has a lower acquisition price so it must deliver lower TCO to IT, right?  Let me show you why it doesn’t…and it’s all because performance matters!  It matters so much that I had these t-shirts made that I plan to start giving out on customer visits.

Got Performance?

High performance means you can get more done with less, and doing so has a huge impact on downstream costs.  Our estimate of OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) performance on a typical 4S Xeon 7500 based server is expected to be ~3X the performance of the previous generation 4S Xeon 7400 based server.  That means 3x  more database transactions.  To achieve the same number of transactions as 2 new servers you’d need 6 of the older ones.  If we apply this 3:1 ratio to comparing the two different HP servers, the downstream cost savings in deploying fewer of the new DL580 G7s is startling.

Equivalent Database Transaction Processing

6 HP ProLiant DL580 G5s
(4 x X7460 processors, 128GB Memory)

2 HP ProLiant DL580 G7s

(4 x X7560 processors, 256GB Memory)




Rack/Floor Space






Server Maintenance



Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition Costs

(Licensing is $27,495 x 4cpus per server, Software Assurance is $6,874 x 4cpus per server x 4 years)



Windows Server 2008 R2  Enterprise
(Licensing is $3,999 per server.)



Server Hardware Costs



Total Estimated Costs



The new DL580 G7 solution would deliver a lower TCO by over $1M, and comes with new advanced reliability features that enable data integrity and high availability.

What drives record breaking server performance of the Xeon 7500?  Well, as I mentioned back in my March blog, bringing the Nehalem Architecture to big servers, the Intel QuickPath Technology (QPI) that brings point-to-point connections between processors and I/O hub, 8-Cores / 16 threads, a whopping 24MB of shared cache, and up to 1 Terabyte of memory with 16 memory DIMMs slots per processor socket sure help.

One thing that doesn’t drive the record performance: core count.  2 of these new DL580 G7s have a combined 64 cores (8-core processors x 4 processors per server x 2 systems), whereas the older 6 DL580 G5s have a combined 144 cores (6-core processors x 4 processors per system x 6 systems).   According to IDC’s Vernon Turner “customers tend to look at application performance at the system level and not the number of cores in the processor.”  The new Intel® Data Center Dude video demonstrates the concept of server performance quite well.

Hopefully this helps you understand how performance drives TCO for a large back-end server workload like enterprise database.  However the majority of server deployments occur on lesser expensive mainstream infrastructure servers.  Stay tuned next week when I’ll show you how to reduce your business costs by deploying high performing 2S Servers for your infrastructure consolidation projects using virtualization software.