Sun's T5440 Enterprise Server up the RISC ante once more
Sun and Fujitsu prove that SPARC isn't dead with the Enterprise T5440 four-processor server, which went on sale this month. According to a white paper from Oracle and tests by SPEC, the T5440 has achieved first place in various benchmark tests, besting x86 servers based around Intel's latest six-core Xeon 7400 CPUs. In many traditional server tasks, the T5440, based around the UltraSPARC T2 Plus processor, takes a clear lead among four-processor systems, especially when the results were weighed against its size (4U) and energy consumption.
Tested under Solaris 10 with Oracle 10g, the T5440 does distinctly better than the fastest x86 server, an HP ProLiant DL65 under Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2005 – even though this is equipped with Intel's new "Dunnington" six-core Xeon 7400MP processors. Two of the important measures are the SD test (SAP Sales and Distribution) and a measure called SAPS (SAP Application Performance Standard). The T5440 managed 7,520 SD users (1.99 seconds response time, 37,560 SAPS), versus the HP's 5,155 users (1.97 s response time, 25,830 SAPS). Even two eight-processor, 32-core x86 machines – Xeons in an IBM x3950 and Opterons in an HP ProLiant DL785 G5 – are well behind. Even IBM's mighty POWER6 processor requires eight chips – 16 cores – in order to keep its whisker of a lead with 8000 SD users.
In the SAP SD two-tier test, Sun unusually used the elderly ASCII version of the database and SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application, to make the results more clearly comparable with the competition. Unicode is more common today, but most rivals avoid it when reporting SD benchmarks.
The UltraSPARC T2 Plus – originally codenamed "Victoria Falls" – is a successor to the eight-core 32-thread "Niagara" (UltraSPARC T1) and the 64-thread "Niagara 2" (UltraSPARC T2). The main difference between the T2 and the T2+ is that the Plus model supports more than two processors per server. The T5440 is the rumoured "Botaka" server, with four T2+ processors, for 32 cores and 256 simultaneous hardware threads. Although dual-processor T2 and T2+ machines need no glue logic to interconnect the chips, the four-processor machine uses a "Zambezi" crossbar switch – but this means the design could in future scale to even more processors.
The T5440 chalks up record scores for a four-processor system in other classic server benchmarks, such as SPECjbb2005, SPECjAppServer2004 and Siebel CRM 8.0/Oracle 10g (PDF). In SPECint_rate_2006, the T5440 lies in front with a peak score of 301, though this was only just ahead of the Xeon 7400 in an IBM x3850 (294). This however was only minimally faster in base value (274 against 270).
With eight FPUs – one per core – the T2 Plus processors give respectable results in high-performance computing as well. With a SPECfp_rate_base2006 2006 SPECfp rate of 212, the T5440 is the only four-processor system to reach scores of over 200. The previously fastest in this category is IBM's P570 with four 4.7 GHz POWER6s, which scores 189. Intel's hexacore is well beaten here, far in the rear with 142. With the supercomputer OpenMP benchmark SPEComp2001, too, the T5440 is in the lead. These results give Sun and Fujitsu a good chance of regaining lost ground in the HPC and supercomputer domain.
At full load under SPECjbb2005, the T5440 consumes around 1.5 kW – noticeably less than its competitors the IBM p570 (2.2 kW) and Power560 Express (1.9 kW). The Itanium in the HP rx6600 does use rather less power, just 1.3 kW, but it's four times slower. In terms of efficiency, however, Intel's hexacore on the Caneland multiprocessor platform with some 800 watts consumption and 506 kbops (kilo-Business Operations Per Second, the SPECjbb unit of measurement) is probably still somewhat better than the T5440 with 1.5 KW and 692 kbops.
The T5440 went on sale this month. It supports from one to four UltraSPARC T2 Plus processors, running at up to 1.4 GHz – and besides their floating-point units, all eight cores also possess a crypto unit. Up to 512 gigabytes of RAM can be plugged into the T5440's 64 FB-DIMM sockets. The basic version of the server, with one processor, can be had at a starting price of $45,000. As is customary with Sun, the hardware can be tested free of charge for 60 days before purchase.