Linux Struts Its Stuff as a Database Platform

Linux-powered databases post strong showings in price and performance benchmarks

When Microsoft Corp. wants to demonstrate the scalability of its Windows operating systems, it usually turns to the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC) for help. At its Windows Server 2003 launch event in April of last year, for example, the software giant announced a then-record score on the TPC-C database benchmark, leapfrogging over RISC/Unix offerings from IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

As it turns out, Oracle had the same idea. The database giant last week touted new TPC-C results for its Oracle 10g database running on Linux that placed it third overall on the TPC’s price/performance list. Given the traditionally high-cost of 10g—perhaps one reason Oracle is called the “Cadillac” of databases—that’s not a bad result: In fact, it’s Oracle’s only showing in the TPC-C price-performance Top 10.

Oracle’s result also highlights the incursion of Linux into a once-exclusive club: The upper echelons of the TPC/C price/performance list. Currently, an HP ProLiant system running SuSE Linux Enterprise Server and the Express version of IBM’s DB2 Universal Database 8.1 sits on top of the TPC/C price performance list, displacing—by almost seven cents per transaction—an HP ProLiant system running Windows Server 2003. (DB2 UDB 8.1 Express also powered the Windows Server 2003 system.)

To be sure, the TPC/C price-performance list is still dominated by Windows systems, however: Eight of the top 10 finishers run Windows Server 2003, and seven of the top 10 are powered by SQL Server 2000.

But Linux has made inroads in other TPC segments as well. A 64-way HP Integrity cluster running Red Hat Enterprise Linux and powered by Oracle 10g currently sits atop the TPC-C performance Top 10, for example. This HP Linux system turned in a TPC-C performance result that’s more than one-third faster than the first of two Windows systems on the list—a 64-way HP Integrity SuperDome system running Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition and the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server 2000—and cheaper (by almost $1.00 per tpmC) to boot. In fact, there are currently two Linux systems in the TPC-C performance Top 10—the other being an NEC Express 5800 system running SuSE Enterprise Server 9 and, you guessed it, Oracle 10g.

To some degree, the recent prominence of Linux on the TPC list rolls can be attributed to Oracle, which, for more than a year now, has been pushing its 10g database on Linux as a can’t-miss proposition, touting both the performance and the low-cost of such a pairing.

If market research from Gartner is to be believed, the database giant has been highly successful in this regard—garnering almost 70 percent of the Linux database market. IBM, by contrast, saw its share plummet from almost 60 percent to just under 30 percent during the same period. There’s plenty of market share to go around, however. Gartner found that Linux database revenues exploded by more than 158 percent from 2002 to 2003—cresting at just under $300 million.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.