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NEC, Intel boast high server speed

An NEC server with 32 Itanium processors and Microsoft's coming Server 2003 operating system claims the No. 2 place in the most widely watched server speed test.

An NEC server with 32 Intel Itanium processors and Microsoft's coming Server 2003 operating system has claimed the No. 2 place in the most widely watched server speed test.

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million server posted a performance of 433,000 transactions per minute, a result faster than IBM's 32-processor p690, with 428,000 transactions per minute, and Hewlett-Packard's 64-processor Superdome with 423,000. Only Fujitsu's 128-processor Primepower 2000 has a higher result, 456,000.

The TPC-C speed test, which simulates sales and inventory transactions on a database server, is the most widely watched measurement of server performance. However, analyst firm IDC advises against relying too heavily on TPC-C because the test has some loopholes and because extensive system tuning can lead to artificially high results.

"What's impressive is that it's a Windows system, an Itanium system, and it's playing with the big boys," said Gordon Haff, an Illuminata analyst. "It's another proof point among many that Itanium 2 is right up there with (IBM's) Power4."

Mike Fister, senior vice president of Intel's Enterprise Platforms Group, announced the results Thursday at the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, Calif. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker is pushing its Itanium processor as a less-expensive alternative to high-end processors such as IBM's Power and Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc.

Fister said the result should dispel doubts about the viability of the Itanium line and the merits of building computers using the chip.

"No one has to feel worried and embarrassed about our intent to drive this stuff anymore," he said during a keynote speech Thursday.

HP, which co-developed the Itanium line, is gradually moving its server line from its own PA-RISC processors to Itanium chips. It plans a cavalcade of new Itanium products this year, including eight-, 16- and 64-processor systems.

Thursday's test result was foreshadowed by an earlier benchmark NEC published in September with a similar 32-processor server but with 256GB of memory instead of the 512GB in the new test. That result helped provide some substance to an argument by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates that the company's software now is able to run on large-scale systems.

NEC's tests used the first version of the Itanium 2 processor, code-named McKinley. Intel plans to release a faster Itanium 2 later this year code-named Madison and a successor called Madison 9M in 2004.

News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.