Sun Posts New NotesBench Results

Sun Microsystems’ (Palo Alto, Calif.) 12-way Enterprise 4500 server was the top performer among servers recently evaluated against the standardized NotesBench WebMail benchmark. Enterprise 4500 demonstrated the ability to support a record 6,500 Lotus Webmail users at a rate of 3,251 transactions per minute, outperforming its closest competitors – using single-way processors – by more than five to one, according to results released by Sun. An eight-processor Enterprise 4500 took the number two spot overall, demonstrating ability to handle 4,600 users at 2,336 transactions per minute.

According to Moti N. Thadani, manager for emerging applications engineering, at Sun, the company foresees Webmail, a new product from Lotus (Cambridge, Mass.), potentially having a broad appeal, and was anxious to demonstrate its server’s support for the technology.

“Webmail is a relatively new market for Lotus Domino, and part of our purpose here is to help grow that market, because we see this as a very valuable technology,” Thadani says. “They were keen to demonstrate the scalability of the solution, and we were keen to demonstrate the scalability of the solution on our server.”

Webmail allows remote users and off-site employees to access their company’s corporate email via any Web browser. The product gives corporate users universal access to their email from any desktop, while providing greater security than what might exist on a public server.

“People have gotten used to being able to access their personal email,” says Thadani. “If you’re in business and you travel, you’ve felt the need to access your company or your corporate email, and you’ve wondered why it wasn’t as easy to do that as it is with a Hotmail or a Yahoo. Many people have gotten in the habit of forwarding documents to their private email account so they can access a document when they travel. … Just the fact that your data files are not on the Hotmail server or Yahoo server increases the security.”

The Enterprise 4500, part of the line of Sun midrange servers which includes the e3500, e5500 and e6500, is “really the workhorse of the midrange server line that Sun has,” according to Thadani. It is designed as the centerpoint of the midrange line, to combine to flexibility of the smaller server with the expandability normally associated with a larger box.

“Primarily our customers will be small to mid-sized companies, for instance, service providers who are trying to conserve space, because it has an extremely small footprint,” Thadani explained.

The e4500 can scale up to a 14-way processor, although Sun only posted Webmail benchmark results for the 8- and 12-way configurations. Thadani says the company had only intended to test the 8-way server, but also ordered results on the 12-way in order to get a clearer picture of its scalability.

“We were actually focused on demonstrating capability at the 8-CPU mark. We went ahead and did the 12-way pretty much as a lark, and we found that we were getting pretty good scalability,” Thadani says. “We felt the 8-way box would be interesting to a large number of our customers.”

In addition to the server, Lotus Domino 5.0.4, Sun StorEdge A1000 disk arrays and the Solaris 8 Operating Environment were primary components of the configuration evaluated in benchmark testing.

Scalability was a particularly important factor in evaluating the e4500’s support of Webmail, due to the level of transaction volume which the application could potentially generate. Thadani says for an Internet-based application, it is crucial that a server demonstrate its ability to efficiently handle large volumes of data. He says he believes the 4500’s Solaris operating system is critical to the server’s high performance in this area.

“What you see in the Internet arena is very large user populations. You also have to deal with a large number of very short-lived connections – that’s just the nature of HTTP and the Webmail application,” he says. “That particular mode of operation is particularly severe in terms of the load it creates, and Solaris has been tuned to handle that kind of workload.”

Looking ahead, Thadani says Sun hopes to promote the server’s support for Webmail to large segments of its customer base, and expects that although it is a new application, customers will show significant interest in implementing Webmail.

“We’re actually a little forward-thinking in taking on this product, because it was a new area, but customers have responded extremely well,” he says. “I think the response has been much better than I expected.”