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IBM takes top spot in server-speed race

Big Blue's p690 "Regatta" Unix server, introduced late in 2001, has edged ahead of HP's Superdome in the most scrutinized performance test for high-end servers.

IBM's Unix server has edged ahead of Hewlett-Packard's in the single most scrutinized performance test for high-end servers.

IBM's p690 "Regatta" Unix server, introduced late in 2001, posted a score of 403,000 transactions per minute on a speed test called TPC-C, IBM said Thursday. That compared to the 389,000 score of HP's Superdome machine.

Performance "benchmark" measurements aren't a complete reflection of a computer's abilities but often are one of the first things customers look at. HP spent more than a million dollars trying to achieve a fast TPC-C result after early results were hampered by what the company later said was sabotage.

Competitors leapfrog each other as new systems arrive, and IBM's 32-processor Regatta was released about a year after HP's 64-processor Superdome. The king of the TPC-C mountain is Fujitsu Technology Solutions, with a 128-processor PrimePower 2000, but that system uses unusual database software while HP and IBM, both of which have vastly more Unix server market share, use the common Oracle database.

The benchmark, from the Transaction Performance Council, measures a simulated warehouse application by way of which many simulated computer users enter orders, record payments and perform other simultaneous transactions on a large database.

The IBM benchmark uses version 5.2 of its AIX operating system, a product that's not yet available but that's expected to ship in October. The TPC rules permit publication of results with products that will be available within six months.

IBM expects to increase its lead as it refines work on the test. HP, meanwhile, promises to beat IBM's newest result soon.

Sun Microsystems, which has maintained top Unix server market share despite intensified competition from HP and IBM, has declined to participate in the TPC-C benchmark battle, calling the test a poor measurement of current computing reality.

IBM is in the midst of a major overhaul of its high-end servers, merging the designs over the course of years so it can use the same components on all machines. The strategy resembles that of Sun, which focuses the vast majority of its research on a single line of servers.