Summary: Sizing Hardware

From: Roetman, Paul <>
Date: Thu Jun 10 2004 - 18:23:20 EDT
Thanks to:
  Bertus Bekker
  Christopher Saul
  Nathan Dietsh
  Andy Kannberg
  William D. Hathaway
  Francois Dion
  Tim Chipman
  Paul Greidanus
  Scott Mickey
  Michael DeSimone
  John Bossert
And for any more replies that come in today!

As always, the members of this list are fantastic!

A very quick summary:

-- Take into consideration the Oracle Licenses. Count of CPU's. Cluster
databsae. Note: Oracle treats one UIV as actually being two CPUs, as
they are dual core - this can have an impact on licensing.

-- Simple comparison: just add up the new MHz, and compare to the old.

-- 4800: price doubled in the last 12 months, so Sun are pushing 4900's.
In US Dollars:
     4 cpu 4800, 4 gig ram = $197K
     4 cpu 4900  16 gig ram = $192K

-- 4900: newer, better technology; more redundant, has domaining, Sparc
IV chip twice as fast as Sparc III chip.

-- vXXX: cheaper (much cheaper!), but be careful of the downtime. There
is no redundancy. Less IO bandwidth & slots. V1280's support Sparc III
and Sparc IV chips, so could be upgraded later. When will the other vXXX
Sparc IV machines be out?

-- review the disk array. Could get more performance gain spending money

-- review splitting onto multiple cheaper servers. Look at V210 or V240
rather than blades to offload some processing. (This would be for the
concurrent managers, and maybe the web server.) This would also build in
some redundancy. Careful on the Oracle Licensing, and the cost of a Sun

Web Sites:

Original Qu:

We are looking at migrating to new hardware for our Oracle Financials
database. Existing hardware is
  4500 with 3 CPU's and a T3 with 9 x 73 gig array (plus another small
array for the OS).

This gives us pretty good performance.... (We are changing hardware due
to lease expiring)

Reviewing what is available to purchase new, there are two real choices
that stick out when looking at what you get per dollar:
  V1280 with 8 CPU and 16 gig ram = $100K
  SunFire 4900 with 4 CPU and 16 gig ram = $190K (this is cheaper than a

Has anyone gone through the comparison of these two models? What do you
get for the extra 90K? Will the V1280 cope as a database and web server?
Or is it a better option to go for something smaller, and put in a bunch
of blade's to offload some of the processing? What are some other
options that are used out there?

Detailed Answers (in no particular order):

Don't forget to factor in the cost of 8 additional Oracle licenses for
the 16x option...

There are a couple of things you should look at. First would be
processing speed. Your 4500 is probably at ~450 MHz per cpu. The New
CPUs are at 1 or 1.2 GHz. So if you are not growing rapidly or you truly
get adequate performance from your 4500 you could probably go to only 2
CPUs in a new box and still have more processing power. You would
probably be fine with a quad box. For what you have described I see no
need to go to an 8 way machine.

To your real question, The main differences between the v1280 and the
4900 is:
CPU - v1280 is UltraSparc III and the 4900 is IV the 4900 uses the
uniboard technology and provides greater hardware redundancy.
4900 provides more 64 bit/66MHz PCI slots, the 1280 has 1 at that speed

Basically the 4900 in newer technology. Is it worth 90k extra? Depends
on your organization. In my shop we would back down to probably a v480
or maybe a v880 with 4 procs and 16GB of ram (both list at ~43k). Much
cheaper and will get the job done for sure. But does not have the
scalability or hardware reliability that the v1280 or especially the
4900 provides.

Check out these links they provide more details on my comments and will
let you compare the machines on your own.


Oracle is priced per CPU.  You need to consider the price change in
Oracle software and yearly support moving from
3 CPUs -> 8 CPUs verses 3 CPUs -> 4 CPUs.
This cost will likely outweigh the hardware cost options over the
expected lifetime of the hardware.
Also, the 4900 is a newer design, so you should be able to utilize it
The big benefit you get from the 4900 would be system domaining.  The
ability to carve up the machine into 2 or 3 or 4 separate computers and
run separate OS's on them.  I have a 12 way 1280 that I'm running as  a
compute server, and it's behaving fairly well.. However, you might get
better IO performance from the 4900.

I would think of splitting the database and web functionality apart from
each other, as there are typically security risks of exposing a
database, and you can probably run it on a V210 or V240 and save the big
expensive iron for database work.


Just a general comment,

If you currently have satisfactory performance with a 4500 configured
with 3 CPUs, and you don't anticipate any tremendous change in your
requirements (ie, not doubling # of clients next week or something :-) -
then ... a "smaller" but newer system should be *significantly* faster
than what you have currently, offering (inherently) greater capacity but
of course "less long term scalability".

ie, a 440 with 4 x 1280mhz CPUs will give you approximately 4x more CPU
power than (the machine you currently are using with satisfactory
performance). [IO throughput would presumably be similar or maybe
slightly better, unless you upgrade your disk also.].  I suspect you
could leave your data on the T3 (use an appropriate HBA to chain it onto
the 440) ; use internal mirrored ultra320 scsi drives for your OS ;
maybe another internal pair of disks for misc oracle / system content,
as required.. and if you find you outgrow this in 2 years, just buy the
next "entry level 4-way sparc server" that sun will be flogging, by then
we'll probably have dual-core CPUs and 2000+mhz I should hope :-)

By going this route, you defer (indefinitely) the large premium to be
paid when buying a sun SMP server above the 4-way mark, which is when
the prices make a huge jump.  Since you aren't currently using a 12-CPU
box .. this sort of approach makes sense, IMHO.  Of course, it isn't
nearly as glorious and sexy/exciting, having a server that only supports
4-way SMP instead of ..12-way (or more) ... but ... if you don't need
that capacity NOW nor in the immediately foreseeable future .. then the
performance boost of the new CPUs themselves should be more than enough
to carry you forward with normal growth for the next few years.

WRT the business of database and web server function on the same box,
vs. splitting onto separate rigs, I would simply suggest,

-evaluate load on system generated from web vs dbase functions -if you
find the web load isn't insignificant, you may benefit from using a
sepate box for web. It becomes a matter of juggling
management/deployment/etc costs vs. purchase/scale-up for a single
bigger box.

Unless you have hundreds of hits per second to your web server, OR it
may be running CPU intensive server-side content
processing/delivery/apps .. I would be surprised if your web server is
eating more than 1ghz CPU / 1 gig RAM resources (again, easily addressed
by even an "entry level 4-way SMP box" like the 440.

Of course, if you are stuck on the idea of spending more $$ for a "real,
serious" system.. then something like a 1280 should be tons of power for
your needs. (again, this assumption of needs is based on the assumption,
what you have now is functional. It wasn't really clearly stated in your
email the actual "need" or motive for the upgrade, such as, "we want to
cut query time by an order of magnitude" or "intend to scale to 10x more
users by year-end" or "just want to buy something because our lease is
up" ... ie, if the lease is your only motive, then .. very important to
ponder if any other issues exist, and if not ... act accordingly.

[For instance, one classic alternate route to get BIG boost of speed, is
to buy a "moderate increase" to CPU capacity, such as the 440 as I might
recommend -- and then get a new disk array which is WAY faster --
spending some of the money you saved by not getting a 12-way SMP box ...

and since IO performance typically plays a large role to oracle
performance, you end up with a system that is **much** faster than if
you only upgrade the CPU/server itself and leave your data on the old
disk arrays.  ... Since storage arrays have evolved quite a lot in the
past few years, and while T3 offers "good performance" for sure, it is
by no means the fastest thing in the market these days, even at
"reasonable" (<20-30K$) price-tags.  I can recommend a guy @ "Winchester
Systems" ( - a vendor of rather lovely disk arrays - who
would evangelize on this topic to you for hours, if you let him :-)  ]


This is really weird on the 4800. I just checked on the Sun web site and
price seems to have doubled... We bought some 4800 last December and
list (w/ 4 x 1.2 Ghz too) price as I remember was $101990, so with
discount you are definitely south of $100K.  V1280 w/ 4 cpu was a bit
cheaper, but for our purpose, we went with 4800. I'll get into that, but
let me mention also, that the price of the 4800 or 4900 is not an all
included price.

For a high availability database, you will want:
-gigabit ethernet cards (2 per server so you can use IPMP for redundancy
- IPMP requires at least one managed switch - gigabit in this case) -PCI
IO assembly (the 4800/4900 come with one, but that doesn't provide
-media tray (storedge 240 I think it's called) with 2 HD, cdrom and tape
-a rack to hold the 4800/4900. I don't think the Rack 900 is certified
for 4800/4900. Sun Fire cabinets are $10K list...
-make sure you have N+1 power supplies and the redundancy kit included.
Some bundles don't.

The 4900 is really a 4800 bundled with Ultrasparc IV cpus instead of
Ultrasparc IIIcu. In that regard, it's almost twice as fast in term of
computing power for the same CPU count but yet everything else is the
same (IO, bus, xbar, power supply etc). If truly the 4800 can no longer
be had at less than or about $100K then the 4900 is a better choice,
particularly with Oracle, as you pay the same licensing for 4 cpu on
each, but the Ultrasparc IV is almost twice as fast.

So like I said, at the same price, it's a no brainer, go with the 4900.
It all depends on the bundles that are available at this time. I'd talk
with my Sun sales rep if I were you. It also pays to get to know system
engineers at Sun itself, they can give you part numbers for promotions
and the like...

>Has anyone gone through the comparison of these two models? What do you

>get for the extra 90K?
Redundancy, possibility of dual IO cages, more than twice the bus
bandwidth. If the 4500 is more than enough, that might not be a reason
to go to the 4x00 vs v1280. But if downtime is not an option (although
with 1 cpu board, I'd be concerned). We went with two 4800, clustered
and with RAC over SCI. You really need the 4800 when you got 4 SCI ports
connected between the two, plus dual gigabit cards in each, dual fiber
channel cards in each, dual U320 scsi etc, this will only work if you
have dual PCI card cages. You could also go with 2 V1280 with some
failover. Factor in the cost of all cluster, Oracle, support and
maintenance before you decide on one option or the other. It will take
you a while to get thru all of that.

I'd also print the service and reference manuals for each box and read
them. They will make your choice easier.


  The v1280 is a bit more limited than the 4800/4900 boxes(btw, probably
also want to look at V2900 which is US-IV capable and configured out of
box version of V1280)

	V1280 has less IO bandwidth & slots (6 total PCI slots,one @
66Mhz, five @ 33Mhz vs 16 total PCI slots in 4X00 box, with 4@66Mhz, and
	No ability to split box into domains
        Doesn't use same uniboards as the midframe servers (form factor
is a tiny bit difference due to top loading design of boards)

       Much cheaper than similarly configured 4(8|9)00
       Built-in dual gigE
       Built-in dual 73G boot disks
       Built-in Ultra3-SCSI port

I think the V1280/2900 is a better buy if
	1) You don't need a lot of storage throughput (you are probably
OK if your only external disk is the T3)
	2) You don't have a desire to split the box into domains
        (which I don't think a lot of people do on a box this size)

On the other hand, you mention that the current config gives you good
performance.  Assuming you have 464Mhz procs on your current machine,
you have approx 1400Mhz worth of SPARC cpus, you might want to look at
getting something smaller like a V440 or V480.
A 4x1200Mhz V480 with 16G RAM lists for $43k on the Sun web site, and
would give you about 3X more horsepower than you currently have.

If you decided you wanted to have a more distributed architecture, you
could get the V480 @43k and a few V210/240s for $3-6k, and still be way
ahead of the purchase price of a 1280.

why go with such heavy machines ?? Currently, you use a 4500 with 3
This is a machine from the Enterprise series, so it doesn't have faster
CPU's than 464 MHz.
Did you have a look at the SunFire v440 ? It can be equipped with 4
cpu's and 16 gig of memory, and comes for a price around 50k(in euro's
that is) The UltrapSparc III's in the 440 are 1,2 GHz. So, you 'raw' cpu
power increases a factor 4. Of course, this is not the only requirement.
For connecting to the T3's you can equip it with SCSI/FC cards,
depending on your current configuration.


I am trying to figure out why you would go for a machine with 8 faster
CPUs when your machine with 3 slower CPUs is performing adequately. Are
you looking at more load in the near future?


The 4900 has more RAS features.
It can also be split into domains.
A 3 CPU 4500 can easily be replaced by even a 280R (2*1200MHz) though.
Then there is still a 480R and V880 before you get to the 1280.
I'd wait for the US IV versions of the 280,480,880 and 1280 though -
they can not be too far off.


I work for Sun's distributor in the Middle East, so the advice below is
based on what we typically sell and what works well with customers.

The 4900 gives you the ability to use domains, as well as having UIV
CPUs.  Be aware that Oracle treats one UIV as actually being two CPUs,
as they are dual core - this can have an impact on licensing.  SAP
treats them as being one CPU!  Hopefully Oracle will come around soon...

The 1280 can handle being a DB and web server, although we typically
configure separate servers for those functions.  You can tie Oracle to
certain CPUs and tie the web server to the remainder, or use Resource
Manager to make sure that load is evenly spread, should you stick
everything on one box.

I wouldn't recommend Blades for anything other than basic web serving -
if there's any heavy duty stuff going on (Java and the like) a V210 or
V240 would be better.

One great thing about the 1280 is that it supports mixing UIII with UIV
CPUs, with everything running at its native clock speed.  This means you
can start now with a 1280, then upgrade it later with the latest
greatest CPUs.

The Middle East is pretty price sensitive, so the 1280's usually what
gets sold over the 4800.  Domains are a luxury that most of our
customers don't need.


The 4900 has more RAS features.
It can also be split into domains.
A 3 CPU 4500 can easily be replaced by even a 280R (2*1200MHz) though.
Then there is still a 480R and V800 before you get to the 1280.
I'd wait for the US IV versions of the 280,480,880 and 1280 though -
they can not be too far off.

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Received on Thu Jun 10 18:23:06 2004

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