AMD based Opteron server (legacy applications)

Seth Mos knuffie at xs4all.nl
Tue Aug 13 13:45:01 CDT 2002


Hello,

The following company is planning to release a 1U dual AMD opteron server. 
http://www.newisys.com/ and the specs 
http://www.newisys.com/NewisysDataSheet.pdf look impressive!

This is particularly interesting for legacy applications.

I work for Coltex BV in the Netherlands which is a holding that has about 
240 stores throughout the country.

I'll explain why the opteron/athlon is interesting for us. (For one single 
application only!)

We have a SQL 7 server (on NT4) for intermediate data storage for 
communicating all the article/pricing information with the stores. This 
accounts for about 300 MB of data.
This application that generates all the data in seperate files for all the 
stores is a single VC++ app that stores and retrieves data form the SQL server.
This currently is running on a PE2300 with a single P3 733 and 512MB ram 
(everything is cached!) and takes about 12 minutes to generate a 4KB text file!

As you can see the application is _very_ badly built/optimized but we don't 
have the sources for it and changing any link in the current system can 
have large complications.

Running this application on a dual cpu system has 0 benefit and a CPU with 
hyperthreading (god i hate that name, anything but hyper) has no benefit 
either since it is not transparent for the application.

The current P4 cores with there rather smallish buffers don't perform well 
and depend on compiler optimizations to get some speed into the system.

The AMD camp took a entirely different approach and made the processor 
faster in a way that is transparent for the OS and the application. I have 
a AMD system at home and running legacy apps still go faster when upgrading 
to a faster processor. Which makes upgrading easy.

We had the situation at work that some specific applications on a Optiplex 
GX150 (P3 1Ghz) ran almost as fast on a Gx240 (P4 1.9 Ghz). In other words 
running legacy apps on a P4 is not that good of an idea and the Xeon is in 
the same league as the P4 IIRC.

I would really like to see Dell delivering solutions that fit the bill for 
people that just expect a new server to be faster then the previous one 
regardless of the application :)

I know the PE2550 is still available with the P3 1.4Ghz which would fit the 
bill but this is the end of the P3 line AFAIK and what alternatives are 
available from that point? This server will probably only give us a 100% 
speed boost and looking to the latest developments going on and the amount 
of cash registers approaching 250 we are looking for some faster machines 
then a 1.4Ghz P3.

We currently own 3xPE2450, 2x2550, 1xPE2300, 1xPE2500, 1xPE1300. We are 
impressed with the quality of the  PE servers so far(the oldest being the 
1300 (2,5 years)). And the support is good as well.
We look forward to using PE servers in the future but the application is 
very specific and rather picky, so we might need to deviate from that course.

The opteron seems to be a really good 64 bit alternative to the Itanium 
which dell has dropped already, but will you be supporting the platform in 
the future since the upgrade path from x86-32 to x86-64 is a rather minor 
step compared to going from x86 to ia64.

We evaluated the Itanium option for our database server but came back from 
that after seeing just how little support was available from the commercial 
software world and a port was not even available for our database server at 
that time (12-2001). This involved our Progress Inc. Database server and 
4GL language. We are currently running this database server on a PE2500 
(dual 1.13Ghz, 2GB ram) and Red Hat Linux 7.1 which is performing very well 
to date.

Using a Opteron system with more then 4GB of ram for a database server 
without needing special HIGHMEM tricks and workarounds looks to be very 
interesting from a performance perspective.

Kind regards
--
Seth
It might just be your lucky day, if you only knew.




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