SGI Altix UV 1000 sets Java application benchmark

Performance, Silicon Graphics News
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Recent test results announced by SGI are touting the Altix UV 1000 as the world’s fastest Java application server. While I love the Altix UV and think it’s a cracking bit of kit, this result highlights how useless benchmarks are.

SGI claim:

  • SGI Altix UV 1000, with 256 cores and 128 JVMs, beat ScaleMP, its nearest competitor, by 82 percent in Java performance with throughput of 12,665,917 BOPS using Oracle JRockit.
  • SGI Altix UV 1000, with 256 cores, beat Fujitsu/Sun, its nearest competitor, by 60 percent with a single Oracle Java HotSpot JVM performance of 2,818,350 BOPS.

As Darth Vader says – “Impressive. Most impressive.” – but lets look at those figures in more detail. A 256 core Altix UV 1000 running 128 JVMs? Who on earth would buy a massive single system image machine, with massive shared memory performance, and then carve it up with hundreds of JVMs – which are pegged to cores?

This is nonsense. Far better to pick a smaller machine – say, an Altix UV 100 – which would much more realistically be used for this sort of task. Or an Altix XE cluster, which would give both good parallelism and also high availability.

Joerg Mollenkamp has even more details, comparing these results to those of a Sun T5440. The price difference is extreme, leading to some embarrassing price/performance comparisons, which also highlights how meaningless these sort of benchmark results really are.

There’s no doubt those are some cracking results from the Altix UV 1000. But they’re meaningless, pie in the sky figures, and I can safely say anyone who ordered one of those to run Java apps on would be laughed at, and then fired on the spot.

A far more meaningful result I’d like to see from SGI would be pitching the Altix UV where it really needs to go – into the corporate data centre. Let’s see some data warehouse figures using Oracle and Sybase for big data workloads that can take advantage of all that fast, shared memory.

SGI need to move out of the pure HPC play for their big kit, and add in more sales to big business. (They’ve need to do this since the first big Origins came out, but that’s a rant for another day). This means playing to the kits strength, and posting JVM benchmarks like this accomplishes nothing apart from opening them up to some – very valid – criticism.

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Institute of Cancer Research deploys an SGI Altix UV super

Silicon Graphics News
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The installations of SGI‘s latest NUMA beast, the x86 based Altix UV, are starting to trickle in. Launched back in November, the Altix UV finally took SGI’s scalable NUMA solution to a cheaper (and hopefully more profitable) x86 base, using Nehalem EX processors instead of Itaniums.

The Institute of Cancer Research have announced that they are the latest to deploy an Altix UV. Although the press release is short on specs of the machine, it looks like large Single System Image (SSI) machines are still in demand, despite the overwhelming dominance of clusters in HPC.

Altix UV will provide the ICR with a massively scalable shared memory system to process its growing data requirements, including hundreds of terabytes of data for biological networks, MRI imaging, mass-spectrometry, phenotyping, genetics and deep-sequencing information across thousands of CPUs.

SGI needed some lower cost NUMA SSI machines – some would argue since the disastrous migration away from MIPS – and the Nehalem base Altix UV has been a long time coming. Hopefully this will mark an upturn in SGI’s fortunes. The full press release can be viewed here.

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