Profusion Benchmarking Begins

The benchmarking of Intel Corp.’s eight-way Profusion chipset has begun, likely setting in motion a Transaction Processing Council leapfrogging that should keep systems vendors hopping into next year.

The benchmarking of Intel Corp.’s eight-way Profusion chipset has begun, likely setting in motion a Transaction Processing Council (TPC, leapfrogging that should keep systems vendors hopping into next year. Early benchmark results from Unisys Corp. ( have some industry observers predicting a more successful existence for Profusion compared with previous attempts at eight-processor, Intel-based systems. The Profusion chipset is expected to ship sometime this quarter.

"What’s really pretty exciting about this is that this is really the first time that a Wintel solution has been able to cross the threshold into the Unix/RISC environment," says Brad Day, vice president and senior analyst at Giga Information Group ( "A lot of people didn’t feel that there would be linear scalability."

Day’s enthusiasm stems from Unisys’ late June publication of results showing a score of 37,757.23 transactions per minute (tpmC) with a Profusion-based, eight-way system on the TPC-C benchmark, a standard test for OLTP performance. This first audited run on a Profusion eight-way system returned a 50 percent performance boost over the top four-way test, a Compaq Computer Corp. result of 25,065.3 tpmC. Like the Unisys benchmark, the Compaq result was achieved on Microsoft Corp.’s SQL Server Enterprise Edition 7.0 database last month.

"Within the next 45 to 60 days you’ll start to see a flood of TPC-Cs, and I think you’re going to see a [performance improvement] of 10 percent to 15 percent," Day says, citing performance enhancements Intel is pushing into the chipset as one reason the results should improve.

If vendors such as IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Compaq, Unisys and others succeed in pushing to the top of that range, the results could surpass 43,000 tpmC. The previous round of benchmark attempts on eight-way systems occurred a little more than a year ago. Four results were published on the pre-Profusion, Pentium Pro 200-MHz systems. The first was 16,101.27 tpmC and the last was 16,257.2 tpmC -- a net change in performance of less than 1 percent.

Don Johnson, vice president and general manager for Unisys’ Aquanta Enterprise Server Business, is bullish on the Wintel platforms’ capabilities. "The rate at which the Unisys servers have been increasing in performance -- substantial improvements now every three or four months -- proves that the time has arrived when our Intel-based server technology can effectively compete in any market segment," Johnson said in a statement.

Microsoft seized on the Unisys benchmark as proof SQL Server 7.0 scales. In its official release on the benchmark, Microsoft proclaimed, "It all shows that SQL Server 7.0 Enterprise Edition can stand up to the biggest demands."

Oracle Corp. rankles at such statements. "They’re coming from a long way back in the database game," says Jeremy Burton, vice president at Oracle.

In fact, the platform doesn’t scale to the most demanding environments. With an entry at 37,000 tpmC, the Intel-Windows NT-SQL Server 7.0 combination has earned the right to begin to be considered as a future challenger to eight-to 12-way Unix systems. The current system to beat in that class on the TPC-C, according to Giga’s Day, is HP’s N-class eight-way system. In April, HP achieved a TPC-C result of 49,308 tpmC on the HP-UX operating system and the Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise 11.9.3 database.

Go beyond eight-way machines to higher numbers of processors or clustered systems and the Wintel platform remains far behind. Sun Microsystems published a 115,395.7 tpmC result in April on a 64-processor Sun box running Solaris and an Oracle database. The highest TPC-C return yet for NT-Intel is a 50,000 tpmC result published this month. The result was achieved with a four-node cluster of NEC Computer Systems Division servers using an eight-way, non-Profusion chipset and running an Oracle database. Among the eight published higher results, all from the Unix world, is a Sun benchmark from October 1997.

The Unisys system does offer cost advantages. Its $23.18/tpmC handily beats the HP system -- $56.67/tpmC -- and the reigning Solaris system -- $105.63/tpmC. It also compares favorably with the Compaq four-way system’s $18.88/tpmC.

Whatever the results of the initial round of Profusion benchmarks, Windows on Profusion tests should get a second wind around the first quarter of 2000 when Windows 2000 Datacenter Server is expected to ship. Day says, "The full benefits of Intel and NT won’t be realized until Windows 2000 Datacenter Server comes out."