SPARC better than Intel – No it is not and I have data to prove it

I was thinking about what to write in my next blog and what I could share beyond what I have written previously about Intel Vs RISC in terms of TCO, performance and the customers that are choosing to move.

Luckily I didn't have to think too long on a Friday morning as a a topic came to mind instantly. There are numerous articles flying around this morning that picked up on the Oracle comments yesterday about how SPARC based systems compare to Intel. Thanks for providing me with an appropriate topic.

So in case you missed it, there was a question and answer session with Larry Ellison. When asked about SPARC, this was the reply "SPARC is much more energy efficient than Intel while delivering the same performance on a per socket basis. This is not a green issue, its an economic issue. Today, database centers are paying as much for electricity to run their computers as they pay to buy computers. SPARC machines are much less expensive to run than Intel machines"

1) SPARC more energy efficient than Intel?  Seriously, in what parallel universe does that exists?

SUN continues to use watts per thread as measure of energy efficiency. The recognized industry standard benchmark for measuring energy efficiency is SPECpowerand I don't see any SPARC based results in the 91 results published. The absence of a result certainly says something very clear to me - no story.

These UltraSPARCT2+ systems get loaded with a lot of memory to deliver the their results, so when you look at overall system power (what people care about) they are not as energy efficient as Intel based systems.

SPECpower is effectively based of SPECJbb-2005 so another way of loking at this is to look at the SPECJbb-2005 results for a 4 socket UltraSPARcT2+ system and a Xeon 7400 system. The 4s UltraSPARCT2+ delivers 693k BOPs while Xeon 7400 is 532kBOPs. So you conclude that SPARC is better than Xeon?. That would be the wrong conclusion

UltraSPARCT2+ system would consume 1525 watts Vs Xeon 7400 at 816 watts. If you look at BOPs per watt (another way of looking at energy efficiency and performance) then you would see that Xeon 7400 is 43% more energy efficient. Doing a similar comparison with Xeon 5400 (I haven't even talked about our latest Xeon 5500, Nehalem) would be up to 77% more efficient than UltraSPARCT2+.

And lastly before I forget to mention the 4s UltraSPARCT2+ had 128GB memory and costs over $150,000for the system, while Xeon 7400 based system had 64GB memory and costs around $32,000.

2) SPARC deliver same performance on a per socket basis?

2S Xeon 5500 has performance leadership over 2S UltaSPARCT2+ across a wide range of benchmarks. Up to 70% more performance and up to 60% lower system cost. 4S Xeon 7400 has price/performance leadership over 4S UltraSPARCT2+, UltraSPARCT2+ results achieved with system loaded with lots of memory that drives the cost up to 3-4Xthat of Xeon 7400 system

3) SPARC machine are less expensive to run?. I can't for the life of me work this one out!.

Hardware systems based on Intel have leading price/performance (read cheaper), lower energy needs (so electrivity bill lower) and any software product with a license per core strcuture is less expensive on Xeon system than an 8 core UltraSPARcT2+ (which also has higher multipler per core)

That's all for now folks. I just wanted to share some data on why I know that SPARC machines are much MORE expensive to run than Intel machines