IBM Power Systems & VMware; Why Not!

IBM and VMware made an announcement that many would never have anticipated.

On August 31, 2015 at VMware’s VMworld conference in San Francisco both IBM and VMware made an announcement that many would never have anticipated.  In support of private and hybrid clouds, VMware’s vRealize Automation is now able to provision and manage virtual machines (LPAR’s in traditional parlance) on IBM’s Power Systems.

Details are sparse as I write this, as well as what I have found from IBM and other online sources.  Here is a IBM blog with most of the details.  I won’t repeat what it says as it is not the focus of this article.

The focus of this blog is on why wouldn’t VMware want to do this and why shouldn’t the traditional VMware shop embrace this first step?  First, it is further evidence by both companies as they weave their unique products with open source OpenStack to deliver greater features with expanded capabilities to customers.  I am not very versed in vRealize so I’ll take the position of speaking about it in generalities. However, I am very well versed in IBM’s PowerVC which is based on the OpenStack framework.  This site management tool for Power Systems provides for image management (fancy talk for OS backup & provisioning), placement policies (aka affinity), full stack configuration of VM’s (ability to configure networking & storage), VM replication, Remote Restart (excellent VM recovery feature) and much, much more.

Because it is based on OpenStack, not only can it be enhanced to suit a customers environment via industry standard API, it can also be integrated into a customers management solution.  Enter VMware’s vRealize Automation product.  This is where the vRealize people say “yep, I know how that works” and where the people unfamiliar with vRealize “google it”.

This creates an expanded market for VMware for platform management.  We can speculate if this is all that IBM & VMware have up their sleeves OR if this is just the first of many future announcements – I don’t know but I’m erring on the side of this being the first of many future announcements.  It also gives them a bump in terms of promoting their cloud solution to customers by claiming it can support not just x86 technology but also  Big Iron like Power and System Z (yes, they announced support for it today as well but you will have to read a Z blog for more details on that).

For customers, this delivers a significant endorsement on the viability of IBM Power Systems. The x86 vendors have for years labeled RISC systems as legacy and dying. Although true for HP and SPARC Unix platforms (If I used RISC because of HP’s Itanium I would surely get criticized so I jumped to UNIX to avoid it) it has not been true for IBM.  That change happened during the Power6 to Power7 model change.  Power6 was the last of the Big Iron systems with the Big Iron mentality.  Power7 began to shift towards the new battlefront consisting of x86 based technologies.  With Power8 the shift by IBM to not only be competitive but a leader in many categories was firmly in place. Platform openness with hypervisor choice (PowerVM, PowerKVM, RHEV & Bare Metal) and OS flexibility using traditional Big Endian AIX, IBM i and Linux (RedHat v6.5 & v7.1 and SUSE 11) as well as Little Endian Linux (RedHat v7.1, SUSE 12 and Ubuntu 14). Systems management using PowerVC based on OpenStack abandoning its own and long in tooth Systems Director product.  Even using Nagio’s in IBM’s newest secure, converged and integrated PurePower ready to deploy cloud solution.  Additional features such as reliability, security, virtualization efficiency, serviceability, significant performance increases and cost competitiveness.  Add in their technology sharing with the 150+ member strong OpenPower Foundation delivering a open platform for the community to develop on and develop to solutions that Intel specifically has continued to close out.

Now with POWER8 delivering roughly 2X the performance per core running the same Linux byte ordering as what is available on x86 systems customers have a choice. Is ‘Good Enough’ good enough when I can get better for the same price with all of the features mentioned above with greater performance that can now be managed by my preferred management platform from VMware.  This doesn’t mean to imply that x86 is going away anytime soon or that Power will overtake the data center overnight.  It does mean to imply though that customers now have choices and it doesn’t have to be just one x86 vendor against another but also with a superior architecture.

Yes, this was very smart by VMware as they win no matter what the customer decides to do.  It was also very smart for IBM as it should mean increased adoption of their Power platform into shops that would otherwise avoid it for lack of integration into the VMware stack.  Both companies will then get the chance to introduce customers to other products in their portfolio which means they are already in the door….that is half the battle!

Do some manufacturers purposefully mislead? PART 1

This is a multi-part blog on the topic of “what if you like their technology but can’t trust what the manufacturer says?”.

Have you been in the situation where you like certain products from a company but find dealing with them is less than desirable? Where you have to have your guard up when dealing with them as they always have an angle. You can’t trust them in other words.

This is my experience with Oracle. Some of their products are market leaders and highly regarded while others lag the competition. Yet to listen to Oracle marketing and their sellers they were #1 in every category, their sales are the highest and growing, their performance is beyond reach of anyone else and just because they set their mind on an industry they almost immediately become the market leader (Cloud comes to mind).

Oracle is a master marketing company. Their approach seems to be if we publish it such as this example of false system leadership

then it must be true …. why else would a company say it; if it weren’t? IBM’s Elisabeth Stahl offers an excellent response to this example at

Why do I bring this up? Well, Oracle doesn’t learn positive moral lessons from their mistakes, they continually refine their tactics to bluff and mislead the consumer. Look at this tweet from an 18-year Oracle veteran who is part of the Oracle marketing team. I added the numbers and circle to reference during this multi-part blog.


For item #1, Oracle marketing claims IBM is making misleading claims about Power8 having the fastest cores as well as having the fastest CPU. Let’s start with definitions because Oracle will let you believe what you want whereas I think we need to work with the same understanding. For purposes of this discussion a processor and a core are synonymous unless otherwise stated. A chip, cpu and socket are synonymous as well unless otherwise stated.   A past trick Sun Microsystems would use and carried on by Oracle is to compare servers using the terms of each manufacturer. IBM would say they have 8 processors in a Power6 570 server, which was actually 4 chips with 2 cores each for a total of 8 cores. Sun/Oracle often refers to their chips/sockets as processors. They would compare an 8 processor SPARC server which is actually 8 sockets with possibly 8 cores in each for 64 total cores to a Power server and claim they beat it by 2X – really when in reality they had 8X more cores?!

Working backwards, I cannot think of an example where IBM claims to have the fastest CPU. I have tweeted though as seen here on my twitter account @PowerMan_SIS:


The data to support my claim is readily available from SAP at

Take your pick of a SPARC server to see their results as seen here:


Manufacturer Model # Processors* # Cores # Users # Users/chip # Users/core # SAPS # SAPS/chip # SAPS/core
Fujitsu M10-4S 40 640 153,000 3,825 239 844,420 21,110 1,319
Fujitsu M10-4S 32 512 153,050 4,782 299 836,550 26,142 1,634
Oracle M6-32 32 384 140,000 4,375 365 793,930 24,810 2,068

* This is one of those “otherwise stated” examples. Here a processor equals a socket because that is the definition used by the SAP benchmark result.

Compare this to Power servers.



Manufacturer Model # Processors* # Cores # Cores/Proc # Users # Users/chip # Users/core # SAPS # SAPS/chip # SAPS/core
IBM Power8 E870 8 80 10 79,750 9,969 997 436,100 54,513 5,451
IBM Power7 795 32 256 8 126,063 3,939 492 688,630 21,519 2,690
Fujitsu M10-4S 40 640 16 153,000 3,825 239 844,420 21,110 1,319
Fujitsu M10-4S 32 512 16 153,050 4,782 299 836,550 26,142 1,634
Oracle M6-32 32 384 12 140,000 4,375 365 793,930 24,810 2,068

What are some observations? The data isn’t mine; it is accepted and published by SAP. The rest is MATH. The Power7 server released in September 2010 has 8 cores per chip (i.e. Processor by SAP’s definition) compared to 12 and 16 for each SPARC entry. I’m not minimizing they have more Users and SAPS per chip but just pointing out they need 50% to 100% more cores to get up to 25% more results. The Power8 server released in November 2014 has results that are very interesting. This packaging of the E870 uses 10 cores per chip and delivers over 2X the results for Users/chip, Users/core, SAPS/chip and SAPS/core. This is with a 2-system node server and IBM scheduled to deliver their 4-system node server with up to 192 cores. I think the results speak for themselves.

Another observation is that in order for Oracle to achieve results, they have to have massively large server; high numbers of chips and cores. 8X more cores in the case of the Fujitsu M10-4S just to obtain 2X the results. The MATH not only demonstrates that but also proves it.

I will wrap up Part 1 of this blog to let you digest the data, the facts and the discussion on the first of several misleading statements by Oracle marketing.

Oracle blogger speaks with forked tongue!

Oracle blogger “kgee” wrote the following at

“Two Ways IBM Has Over-promised and Under-delivered with POWER8 to Date”. “Kgee” goes on to say the the following in which I provide the highlights.

  1. Power8 is More than a Year late.
  2. Where is AIX8?
  3. Fact: AIX 7 TL3 last November just released “WPAR alt_disk ….”
  4. Fact: Apparently per IBM’s roadmaps, AIX does not yet support SR-IOV
  5. Fact: Consider all of the advantages Oracle just released in Solaris 11.2

Just because you can say it, doesn’t make it true. This Oracle blog is full of wrong statements, mis-statements and “so what”.

1) IBM (imo) releases products when the market is ready for them.  Products may be pulled or pushed as the market and competition require it. Also, SPARC & Solaris are no longer considered significant competition much to the chagrin of Larry who thinks Oracle should be the most relevant.

2) Is that all you have to criticize Power8 for?  I’ll take it! Let me know when you want me to publish the side by side comparison of Power vs SPARC delivery dates. Oracle bought Sun so you own their dates as well!

3) Marketing drives model names for hardware and OS. Remember Solaris 2.4, 2.5, 2.6 then 2.7 – I mean Solaris 7? Then Solaris 8, 9, 10 and 11?  Constant major OS re-numbering require ISV’s to re-certify which is costly and often slow. I applaud IBM for sticking with the current OS strategy  that standardizes on the current two OSes in a effort to eliminate the disruption. Customers can now do minor updates for feature & bug enhancements to get to the next server generation without being required to do a major OS upgrade.

4) The author ‘kgee’ seems to have all of the AIX facts so he/she can tell us if AIX8 is late? I do not think it is and I am not expecting one but I wasn’t expecting one so not sure how it can be late.  That said, AIX delivers more concurrent, dynamic, scalable, and secure features than Solaris.  AIX is also integrated with the hypervisor and hardware for performance, security, serviceability and reliability. Can’t say that with Solaris, much of its RAS features are in the OS.  To do it in the hardware requires significant engineering effort which IBM has in spades.

5) For your WPAR Alt_disk…. comment – congrats! You picked a OS virtualization feature to give the impression AIX is lacking or playing catch-up. Solaris only had Zones, which is a OS virtualization feature as an option for years with no hardware level virtualization offering or capability. Power has delivered PowerVM years before Solaris’s OS only option. AIX added WPAR’s with Solaris 6 which was available in 2007 – just 2 years after Solaris.  As far as the “Alt_disk” vs Live Upgrade. AIX has had that feature since 2001. Guess that puts Solaris behind by 4 years.

6) Unified Archives – Oh great, another new feature from Oracle. Just like the T series, what is that 5 generations of servers in 6 or 7 years? Congrats on a new feature. I’ll take investment protection and stability.

7) No compromise virtualization with Solaris Zones – ha, really. Read your documentation. If you say “No compromise” that means none, nada, nothing yet you say in the definition “an even greater …” inferring an improvement. How can that be if it is already “No compromise”?

8) Power, PowerVM and AIX have delivered Quality of Service for cpu, ram, I/O for years. Congrats for catching up and using the latest buzzword “Software Defined”.

9) While Oracle works to lower the compliance effort with their offering, Power and PowerVM eliminate the effort of meeting compliance with IBM i and AIX through the use of PowerSC.

10) (Note: I forgot to add this in my original response to “Kgee’s” blog. Power servers have offered SR-IOV capabilities starting in October 2012 with Power7+ 770 & 780 servers. However, for all of the neat benefits of SR-IOV, those features are mutually exclusive to features  long available in the Virtual I/O Server (VIOS). So, while Solaris was needing SR-IOV to get these features, IBM has been delivering this kind of functionality since 2004 with Power5.

Other than these 9 (now 10) items I thought your article was pretty good.  Look forward to the next one.”

Solaris is a very good OS, just like HP-UX and other Unix OSes. AIX has enterprise features that in my opinion offer customers more features and benefits. It is a bit of Ford & Chevy. However, where there is no comparison is between Power servers vs SPARC servers. Even though Oracle delivers SPARC products, even new products they are years behind in functionality, capability, security, flexibility and performance compared to Power.  At the end of the day – actually at the start of the day, customers want their servers available, secure, using as much of the resources as needed for as many workloads as possible keeping the real costs under control which is with software like Oracle database. Power controls these products while SPARC and x86 for that matter are meant to deliver a software license delivery vehicle to increase licenses for Oracles profit. Nothing wrong with profit but let’s call a spade a spade.  TCO of Power will always beat the TCO of SPARC (and x86) for these kinds of workloads!


Why Oracle should sell “cars” – not servers! – Part 1

Yes, I must apologize to car salesman as they should feel slighted by comparing them to an Oracle sales person. However, when you watch a YouTube video at by Scott Lynn, Solaris Product Manager at Oracle you can’t help but wonder how businesses continue to fall for what appears to be constant misleading claims and statements.

Here are a few of the claims made by Scott that I will discuss in detail below.

  • Barely 40 seconds into the video Scott claims T5 is the Worlds Fastest Processor – Why yes, this car is the “Fastest” in its class!
  • Claims each generation of SPARC has seen a 2X performance increase (while his own chart doesn’t even show that) – The HP for this engine is up 2X from last years model!
  • Power7+ is only 10% faster than it’s predecessor over the last 3 years – My car is the only manufacturer to make real improvements model year after model year.
  • Compares the $/Perf of M9000 at $18 to T5 @ $4 which is a 78% decrease in price performance – Our latest car is better, faster and cheaper whereas the competition has had issues, slower and cost more for less – that’s what I am hearing at least.
  • Made claims for a European Telco moving from a x86 / Linux / VMware solution to T4 obtaining 10X greater transactions and 2X the performance for the same number of licenses – one customer was able to achieve 55 mpg using normal driving habits – I’m sure you are no different than he is!
  • Solaris is 85% less costly than a typical x86 solution – This car pays for itself!
  • Solaris is almost $1K less per VM than competition at $2543 vs $1591 – For what you get, this car is less expensive. Let’s go talk to the Finance Manager now.
  • VMware uses 10 – 30% overhead while Solaris has virtually 0% overhead – their car has emissions controls but this car is wide open!

I almost do not know where to begin. At the end of the video he threw in a set of floor mats, mud flaps and a oil change.  Below are my responses to Scott’s claims that I listed above.

  • T5 is the Worlds Fastest Processor so says “Oracle”. That’s right, based on their own internal testing the T3 outperforms T2 by 2X. T4 outperforms T3 by 2X. T5 outperforms T4 by 2X. First, by what standard? On a core vs core basis? Socket vs socket? Maybe actual benchmarks? None of us know because they do not publish anything. All we have to go by are Scott’s words – because he said so, it must be true!  Sun published very, very few benchmarks or any other public results for the T2 & T3 servers. They started publishing some with T4 after adding the S3 core – must’ve been feeling their oats 🙂

The image below could be interpreted with some literary license I guess but I’m taking a literal interpretation because they do that to not just imply x86 and Power do not perform from generation to generation like SPARC T series has but in the very picture in which they criticize the competition they show themselves to not scale from generation to generation.  Stunningly inept? Oversight? It will just take a bit more research to provide various data points to support what Oracle actually shows.


The picture below shows an example of performance, pricing and sizing manipulation. Oracle uses 2 x 64 core servers to get a 28.8K result vs 2 x 16 core Power7 servers to get a 10.9K result 4X the number of cores to get just 2.6X higher performance. A more likely server solution would be 2 x Power7+ 740 servers, each with 16 cores.  Those servers would have a sell price of approximately $115K each.  There is a similar result on the cousin server running Linux called the 7R2 which delivered 13.1K EJOPs.  Those 2 x 16 core servers with 1/4 the cores of the T5 are roughly 1/2 the results of the T5’s 128 cores at a lower price. With Oracle EE database cost of $47,500 per core and WebLogic at $35,000 per core, each carrying 22% software maintenance per year – starting with the first year.  Of course, the Power solution is using DB2 and WebSphere Application Server which are both less costly than the equivalent Oracle products but the licensing model favors Power in this case. Not because of the Oracle reasons which is to manipulate vendors servers like they do with x86 and SPARC but because the 740 and 7R2 both are 2 socket servers.  Like all 2 socket servers they have a PVU rating of 70 per core.

T5 with 64 cores vs Power7 780 with 16 cores. Oracle picks a entry level vs IBM enterprise class. Intentionally use 4X the cores to get higher results while different classes to show wider cost delta.
T5 with 64 cores vs Power7 780 with 16 cores. Oracle picks a entry level vs IBM enterprise class. Intentionally use 4X the cores to get higher results while different classes to show wider cost delta.
  • Even Scott’s own chart doesn’t show a 2X increase for each generation. If I was going to say it and had the bazillions of marketing dollars that Oracle has I would at least have the red line reflect 2X from generation to generation because now it just looks like he is lying.
  • X86 has only had a 20 – 50% increase. Again, he doesn’t provide any data so we can only speculate. I will write some future blogs on the overstatement of x86 performance but in general, they do get more performance (per socket) with each generation because they tend to double the number of cores per socket: 2 => 4 => 8 => 15.  I can’t find any statements by x86 where they claim a 50% increase on a core vs core basis.  Where they make statements is usually on a socket basis and a lesser degree on a core basis – again, because their per core increase isn’t typically all that spectacular. They increase performance by doubling or adding cores.
  • In comparing Power7+ servers over 3 years one might think you were comparing it to Power6 or Power6+ but I think your marketing department is trying to be sneakier than that. However, Power7+ was first introduced in October 2012 then February 2013. Power7 wasn’t first available until March 2010 which means that Power6+ was the generation of server available 3 years prior. First, P7+ was ~30% per core better over P7 but remember that isn’t who they said they were comparing it to since it was in 3 years. Power7+ is ~43% better over Power6+. By the way, I used a P7+ 750 with 8 cores @4.0 GHz vs a P7 with 8 cores @ 3.0 GHz. In comparing to Power6, I had to pick a server that existed in each generation. I chose the P7+ 780 with 16 cores @ 4.42 GHz vs a P6+ 570 with 16 cores @ 5.0 GHz. Unlike Oracle which likes to compare a IBM Power 795 to their entry level T5 server which is like comparing a SPARC M9000 server to a SPARC T2000 – the servers simply are not in the same class.  The servers I selected are either the same in it’s class in the case of the 750 with one being first generation power7 from March 2010 vs a Power7+ 750 available in February 2013.  Also, the Power7+ 780 which replaces the Power6+ 570.  Unlike some mysterious Oracle internal testing numbers I used IBM’s rPerf numbers which are specific to Power servers (what Power Architects use to size Power vs Power) and used to compare one model to another. The data is available to the public online in their Systems Performance Report.
  • Scott compares the M9000 to a T5. That is like comparing a Cadillac to a Chevrolet Malibu. The M9000 is a true enterprise class RISC server. The T5 is not in the same league as the M9000…For that matter, nor is the M5 or M6 servers (in the same league as the M9000). This is a perfect example of the egregious marketing behavior of Oracle. They compare the cost of the top end enterprise server designed to scale I/O, cpu cores and memory based on the technology of the day with very high RAS features – which comes at a premium. T5’s are entry level servers using current technology for the processors and memory. They glue them together to scale from 1 to 8 sockets. They don’t even say which T5 server? -2? -4? -8?
  • For the European Telco – How many x86 servers? What generation of processors? How many T4 servers? What model? Number of cores, etc? Easy to make claims – He said “This car will go 0 – 6 mph in under 5 sec and get 35 mpg in the city!”.
  • Solaris is 85% less costly than a typical x86 / VMware / Red Hat solution. Here is another Oracle marketing tactic which is to shift topics around. The video is on the economics of Solaris so they mix cost efficiencies of Solaris for SPARC and Solaris x86 leaving the viewer the option to interpret what they say for one (x86) must be the same for the other (SPARC). What they lead you to believe is that Solaris virtualization is comparable by “features” to VMware but nowhere close in cost with OracleVM being considerably less expensive. I am no VMware specialist but what I do know is that Oracle is using OS based virtualization called Solaris Zones, which is included in the OS. That is how they get the cost to $0. On a feature comparison though, VMware is much more robust and feature rich than LDOM’s and Solaris Zones which they generically label both as OracleVM.
  • I don’t dispute the VMware overhead. VMware and its users seem to dispute it but that isn’t the purpose of the comment. We can discuss this in a future blog. They claim the Solaris virtualization is virtually 0%. For which product? They mention Solaris Zones but they also have LDOM’s now called Oracle VM. That has a different overhead amount that requires VM’s for Control and I/O so leaving the reader to believe virtualization is the same between platforms is disingenuous. This snapshot from the SPEC website for SPECjEnterprise2010 shows quite a difference in performance results for a 128 core T5-8 server with one using Solaris Zones and the other OracleVM, presumably LDOM’s. Of course, Solaris has Zones for both x86 and SPARC but they are apples to oranges when compared to VMware for features and functionality. Using the Oracle standard for financial disclosure I will have to do a future blog comparing a Power8 server with AIX using Workload Partitions, which are similar to Solaris Zones. Unlike the x86 server there is still an underlying hypervisor that would allow for separate VM’s with their own OS instance all without having to pay for a virtualization suite
Looks like overhead when using Solaris Zones
Looks like overhead when using Solaris Zones

I’ll pick up part 2 of this “car buying” journey.  You’ve already watched the video and hopefully with my comments pointing out how Oracle massages, manipulates, mis-states and generally exaggerates results or capabilities you are hopefully becoming a skeptic of everything they say.

I’m putting this together a bit faster than I intended but I have a tweet to my new found buddy Phil Dunn of Oracle that I want to hit “send” on so I’m sure I’ll make a few tweaks, updates and corrections.  My intention is to accurately capture their mis-statements without making my own. I’ll correct the record though.  Will they?

Tired of Oracle’s exorbitant pricing? Try IBM’s DB2 v10.5 on Power8!

Feeling choked by Oracle licensing costs? Understand the game the industry uses to mislead consumers to buy more hardware and software vs the only platform that controls server and software cost proliferation.

Why do so many customers get drawn into the Oracle camp? I do not want to take anything away from the Oracle technology right now – we can have that discussion on another day.  Right now, my inaugural blog is about the cost and packaging of Oracle products – primarily Oracle database products.

Are customers getting tired of the Oracle bullying and overpricing?  Just yesterday I spoke with a customer discussing the benefits of DB2 v10.5 and Power8 technologies.  I shared experiences and successes of other customers discussing how it was common for x86 workloads to require 10X more cores compared to Power servers.  This of course directly impacts the TCA / TCO in that it is about 5X less expensive to run Oracle software on Power – you don’t hear this from Oracle sellers and yo wouldn’t expect x86 sellers to say it but they say other things like Power is so expensive – oh, and that it is going away …. so you had better buy x86 and Linux (Oracle Linux of course).  This particular customer I was talking with is now running Oracle on x86 now claiming it is killing their budgets.  They add a new workload and they have to add more servers which means more Oracle licenses.  Upgrade the servers from Sandy Bridge technology to Ivy Bridge and all they do is add more cores but little performance.  Of course, this adds more Oracle licenses and cost – Larry has a mortgage to pay….on 19 or so Malibu homes!

I have a large customer who is seeing upwards of 70% compression in their DB2 v10.5 environment – up from 60% when they first migrated from Oracle several years ago.  It reduced their licensing and maintenance cost significantly not to mention the cost of storage and storage expansion.  They have said it has given their DBA’s a quality of life they never had before. Their enterprise database environment is more stable now than it was before when running Oracle.

What is amazing is when you look at all of the technology that comes with DB2 Advanced Enterprise Server Edition (AESE) which would be in the class of product like Oracle Enterprise Edition but includes all of the features that you pay for with Oracle.  Plus, DB2 also includes the first year of maintenance with each year afterward just 20% not 22% like Oracle which you pay in the first year as well as the cost of all the software licenses.  Oracle will say that AESE is more expensive but the reality is they charge based on PVU which is 70 for a 2 socket, 100 for a 4 socket (this would be equivalent to the 1.0 for Oracle if normalized) and 120 for the Enterprise class servers (6 & more sockets whether x86, SPARC or Power).  This PVU rating system is designed to charge based on the consolidation and feature capability.  The best way I can say it is that the 2 socket is Entry Level, the 4 socket is mid-range and the high-end is like the Lexus of servers in that you expect significant RAS, performance, consolidation, virtualization and other features not found on the smaller models.

You calculate the cost by taking the  number of cores needed for the workload times the PVU rating times the PVU cost of the product, in this case DB2 AESE v10.5.  Oracle is different as they favor platforms that are either their own servers or servers like x86 that use more software licenses – that’s a company you can trust!

DB2 includes their version of RAC, Active Data Guard, Compression, Tools, Tuning and many more items not to mention IBM’s column in-memory product called BLU — all of the items that you pay for with Oracle but are included with DB2 v10.5.

See the complete feature list for AESE at the following link to compare each DB2 v10.5 Edition.  From the Advanced Enterprise Server Edition discussed here to the Community Express Edition.

Example List of Features:

  • DB2 Database Partitioning Feature
  • IBM DB2 pureScale Feature
  • Row Compression
  • Adaptive Compression
  • Intelligent Mining
  • Workload Management
  • Continuous Data Ingest
  • Change Data Capture (CDC)
  • Unstructured Text Analysis
  • Cubing Services
  • Accessing federated data in DB2 for i or DB2 for z data servers
  • Accessing federated data in non-IBM data servers, except accessing federated data in Oracle databases through SQL Warehousing Tool
  • SQL Replication with DB2 for i or DB2 for z data servers
  • SQL Replication with non-IBM data servers
  • Column-organized tables
  • HADR
  • DB2 Connect
  • Cognos
  • Infosphere
  • Memory / sockets / cores / storage – unlimited
  • DB2 Governor
  • DB2 Advanced Copy Services
  • DB2 merge backup
  • Oracle compatibility
  • Query parallelism
  • Replication Tools
  • Spatial Extender
  • Time Travel Query
  • And more …

DB2 has different pricing model options – by core using PVU’s, by the size of the database regardless of the number of cores and even RVU which is to tie the number of licenses required, measured in RVUs, to the utilization of the software or the resources the software manages.

to tie the number of licenses required, measured in RVUs, to the utilization of the software or the resources the software manages. – See more at:  They also have a COD feature which lets you buy DB2 license for use on a daily basis so you don’t have to buy them forever like Oracle – that is a great feature.

HADR which is DB2’s improved version of Active Data Guard (ADG).  It is no cost if the remote site is “cold”.  It requires a token 100 PVU licenses at the remote site if “warm” and if the site is “Hot”, it would require full licensing.  Oracle charges full licensing for warm and hot.

The DB2 AESE licenses also come with 5 licenses of Cognos, 10 licenses of Infosphere and “Use Limited” DB2 Connect licenses.

When Oracle DBA’s are emotionally ready to set aside their feelings (I love Ford) and ready to test drive a Chevy they will find that it is nearly identical and can begin administering a DB2 environment immediately.

Taking these database benefits that come with DB2 v10.5 and factoring in the cost benefits listed below why would customers A) Consider Oracle database  B) Continue using Oracle database?

The following table which I borrowed from the blog of Connor O’Mahony shows all of the tremendous features that are included in the AESE version of v10.5 which also includes the first years maintenance.  When maintenance starts in year two it is just 20% vs 22% for Oracle.

Functionality DB2 Advanced Ent. Edition Price
Core Database DB2 Enterprise Server Included
Data Compression Storage Optimization Included
Disaster Recovery HADR Included
Advanced Security Adv. Access Control Included
Data Partitioning Table Partitioning Included
Administration Optim Database Admin. Included
Development Optim Development Studio Included
Performance Tuning Optim Performance Manager Included
Cluster pureScale Included
Active/Active Rep. Q-Replication with DB2 Included
Column Organized BLU Included
Total $66,800

The following table shows the equivalent products from Oracle.  Note how most of them have an associated cost plus their 22% maintenance cost just to buy the license.  UPDATE: Aug 02, 2014 (Adding details for Oracles In-Memory feature) The latest feature which adds cost is the Column organized feature  called “In-Memory” that is built-in to Oracle  Enterprise Edition database.  Even though it is built in to Oracle Enterprise Edition like BLU is to DB2, Oracle charges and licenses separately at $23,000 per core or with the first years maintenance of 22% that would make it $28,060 per core – ouch!   Looking at my original statement prior to this update which follows is that it is both prophetic but sad as I was spot on.  “One thing we know is that it WILL cost money plus 22%!  Larry has to buy airplane fuel for his airline in Hawaii and that’s not cheap!”.

Functionality Equivalent Oracle Software Price
Core Database Oracle Enterprise Edition $57,950
Data Compression Advanced Compression $14,030
Disaster Recovery Active Data Guard $14,030
Advanced Security Label Security $14,030
Data Partitioning Partitioning $14,030
Administration Oracle Enterprise Manager No charge
Development Internet Dev Suite $7,076
Performance Tuning Diagnostics Pack $6,100
Cluster Oracle RAC 28,060
Active/Active Rep. Golden Gate $21,350
Column Organized In-Memory $28,060
Total $204,716

With the cost for all of these “Add-On’s” that many customers use, especially on x86 servers and for sure on Oracle’s ExaData product, Oracle is now just 3X more expensive than DB2.   But, each year the annual maintenance cost will be more; $36,916/core for Oracle vs $13,360/core for DB2.  Looking at your server options to increase the efficiency of the software investment there are two options – x86 and Power.  I am not a “Z” guy so feel free to tell me it is a viable option as well – I’m happy to learn more on this.

Oracle will claim SPARC but they have a hodge podge of virtualization and a history of changing platforms. T5 is a respectable chipset but unless Oracle can drive significant revenues with the platform I am not sure it has a long term future.  I see them mostly using SPARC and Solaris for it’s “mindshare”…it’s fanboi’s – hey, I’m a Solaris fan by the way.  I worked at Sun for 10 years and was an instructor in the U.S. Army at Ft Huachuca focusing on SunOS and Solaris in the mid 90’s.  Oracle’s focus (today) is on producing inexpensive white box x86 servers as a delivery vehicle for voluminous quantities of expensive software.  They recently entered into an agreement with Dell where I expect Dell to begin providing their no-innovation x86 servers to Oracle as part of that partnership.  Win-win for both as Oracle can shed any engineering and manufacturing cost while Dell increases their volume business.

Intel’s x86 with Linux delivers improved stability and scalability for an otherwise deficient platform compared to the Power platform.  Where Linux makes x86 better, Power makes Linux better for example.  Although Linux is an option on Power running in both Big Endian (right ordered) and now Little Endian (left ordered or traditional x86) modes – Oracle does not run with Linux on Power.  DB2 does but does not yet deliver the BLU functionality.   The traditional commercial operating systems are IBM i (OS/400 – the original integrated system) and AIX.  Both of these OSes provide enhanced security, scalability, virtualization and tighter integration with the platform – makes sense since IBM owns the IP for all of it.  Unlike x86 where the chipset comes from Intel, motherboard from a vendor, SAN adapter from a vendor, Ethernet card from a vendor, OS from a vendor, virtualization from a vendor, HA from a vendor, so on and so on.  Do they work – usually but commodity means their tolerances have to accommodate a multitude of vendors, chipsets and other technology nuances.  Probably runs great most of the time but when it does not it may be a fire drill to get 10 vendors together on a call to troubleshoot.

Oracle charges for all cores on x86 times a licensing factor of .5.  On Power, you only pay for the cores used for Oracle times a licensing factor of 1.0.  Oracle isn’t afraid to manipulate these factors to benefit their sales efforts as seen by them lowering a T series generation to .25 and increasing Intel Itanium from .5 to 1.0.  Even while they claim to have the “World’s Fastest Processor” with the T5 which is a joke and a perfect example of the smoke and mirrors perpetrated by the massive Oracle marketing machine they have not increased it to 1.0 for example to match Power if it is so powerful.  The licensing factor table is either based on a foundation of trust or mistrust.  I’ll let  you decide for yourself which it is.

I will spend more time on future blogs discussing the efficiency of Power servers that contribute to licensing differences between x86 that I have  seen having a core ratio of 10:1 in but more likely 4:1 is common.  Yes, 100 x86 cores to 10 Power cores.  It’s based on the workload, utilization and architecture in the end.  Depending on the server which is hosting that workload like a enterprise class Power7+ 780 this is not just plausible but demonstrable.  With Power8, which was just introduced this past June 2014, it is delivering roughly 2X the performance per core over x86.  I say roughly as there are several key benchmarks like TPC, SPEC, Oracle, SAP, Linpack and others.  I like the SAP S&D 2 Tier benchmark as it tends to exercise the server with a load often similar to customer workloads.

I will purposely not cite the exact numbers – go look them up. I have looked at them 10,000 times.  I just want to give you the general numbers. IBM released a 24 core Power8 result in April 2014 which is a 2 socket server that delivered around 21,000 users and ~115,000 SAPS.  Not bad. NEC released a 60 core Intel Ivy Bridge EX E7 v2 result which is a 4 socket server that delivered 20,800 users with 114,700 users.  The Power8 has 60% fewer cores but comparable results.  There are also other 60 core results from IBM, Dell, Cisco, HP, etc that have more users and SAPS.  Not a whole lot more but more.  The point is that Power8 is a beast.

If we were to use the performance results above from the SAP benchmark for Oracle there would be 60 x86 cores and 30 Oracle licenses.  Take 30 x $204,716 = $$6,141,480.  For the Power server, there are 24 Power8 cores and 24 Oracle licenses.  Take 24 x $204,716 = $4,913,184 which is $1.2M less for Power8.  One point of clarification is on the Power server. If you are not running Oracle RAC the cost would be the cost of the database only at $57,950 per core which lowers both the TCA and TCO even more.  Example of 24 licenses: 24 x $57,950 = $1,390,800.

Update: Added a table to make the values above easier to visualize



BUT….But, that isn’t the real story is it?  Is it Oracle?  Is it x86 sellers?  I’m about ready to tell the big secret here to bust this open – this will be bigger than when Geraldo opened Al Capone’s safe with America watching in 1986.  The real story is based on the architecture of the solution.  Customers do not and would not deploy a single x86 server.  They are inherently unreliable lacking serviceability features.  They depend on software clustering like Oracle RAC to compensate for their deficiencies. This means more servers, more hardware like adapters, switches, switch ports, software, maintenance, rack space, cooling, advanced skills, etc, etc.

For the above x86 pricing example, that means there would be 2 x 60 core servers totaling 120 x86 cores or 60 Oracle licenses (are you sitting down?).  That is 60 x $204,716 = $12,282,960.  Oh My Gosh!  Seriously!!!  2 little old x86 servers that are supposed to be inexpensive!  Good enough technology!  The next part of the secret is that Power servers are inherently reliable and serviceable.  You typically do not need multiple servers as it is more common to deploy them in standalone configurations for each workload.  Yes, businesses will decide to invest and use something like PowerHA which can be around $3,000 per core vs Oracle RAC at $23,000 per core (that is without the 22% annual maintenance) but even if we double the Power8 number that makes it $9,926,368.  Note the delta between the x86 and the Power8 Oracle pricing is starting to grow – and this is just for presumably 1 workload – okay, maybe 2 (lots of factors here).  Not a stick of hardware has been bought yet.



As Paul Harvey says, the rest of the story is that the Power8 server won’t license all of those cores but the x86 will.  That is how it is done.  For the Power8 server, they will be sized for the workload – pick a number – let’s say 50% representing a 50% utilization.  That is 12 cores are licensed for Oracle out of the 24 active in the server.  That is now $2,456,592 per server.  Note: Remember if you are using just 1 Power server, with no RAC and there are just 12 Oracle licenses it would be 12 x $57,950 = $695,400.  If you used Oracle RAC though, that brings the cost to $4,913,184 for both servers.  I don’t suggest using RAC if high availability is needed unless you have an availability requirement around 5 minutes or less.  PowerHA can support 5 minutes and less but if 5 minutes is the most your business can tolerate then RAC may be required.  If 5 minutes or more is fine then PowerHA is an extremely mature, robust product that is easily deployed with lots of available skills – look for online resources from Shawn Bodily and Michael Herrera.


# of x86 servers

Total # licensed Cores in Solution

1st Year Oracle TCA

Total 1st Year Oracle TCA













The saving grace for x86 is that Power is expensive, right?  That is what is written all over the blogs!  Some x86 or software seller is out there right now claiming this so it must be true. Or, they could be ignorant of the facts, lying or both – I’m going with both as I have actively seen / heard it.  This is unfortunate as I try to have a sense of humor with my work even though I am passionate but as a Christian I also must live my life with balanced scales (Proverbs 11 or 20 – take your pick) which is frustrating to work in a industry built on exaggeration that encourages overstating capabilities just to get a purchase order.

Reality is – since Power7 the price / performance for Power has gone down.  Price went down 1/2 while performance went up by 4.  Not 4X per core but by form factor.  With Power6, what was a 16U server with 16 cores is now with Power7 a 2U or 4U server with 16 cores.  That previous 16U server could now provide 64, 96 or even 128 cores.  Performance did go up per core as well – depends on what model we are comparing what to what. Not relevant right now.  With Power8 we are seeing even more performance in a footprint.  That 2U and 4U server are now delivering up to 24 cores for the entry level models while performance per core is also up almost 2X over Power7 with the cost down even more.  With the Linux only models on Power8 they actually have x86 price equivalency.  The models that run Oracle which implies AIX are “price comparable” to x86.  When you see the pricing of Oracle above, the cost of the servers begin to be less significant.  What is the price of that 60 core x86 server?  I’d estimate the Power8 server is about the same price or maybe 25 – 40% more.  Depends if it is a blade product where some of the server cost is shifted out of the blade into the chassis. Power pricing includes the OS and virtualization whereas often the cost of x86 is viewed just at the hardware cost of acquisition.  With x86, if you need to add more workloads what will you do?  Add 2 more servers and $10M more in Oracle licensing costs + 22% for maintenance every year for the rest of your life – Larry needs a new yacht – every year!  With the Power8 server, you could add another 12 core workload on the same server.  So, you don’t HAVE to buy another server, you can provision the new workload in minutes AND the software licensing is significantly less.

Back to DB2, if you look at using DB2 instead of Oracle on the Power8 server you will get more performance per core which means you probably won’t need 12 cores but maybe 6, 7 or even 8.  But, for purposes of our discussion let’s stay with 12.  12 x $66,800 = $801,600.  If you choose to use clustering like RAC then go with DB2’s pureScale which is actually more reliable, scalable and efficient and included.  So, the cost for 2 servers is $801,600 x 2 = $1,603,200.  (I should add that the DB2 pricing for this 24 core model should actually be less since this pricing is built on a PVU rating of 100 whereas the 2 socket 24 core server has a PVU rating of 70.  That is less than the cost of a single server running Oracle.  Plus, the annual maintenance is just 20%.  Now, you can replicate the database using HADR’s log shipping feature that is included with the DB2 license to something like a IBM Managed Solution Provider. This cost would be $66,800 for 100 PVU’s.



*Reminder the pricing used here relies on a normalized PVU value of 100 to make it comparable to Oracle’s license factor of 1.0 for Power. The 2 socket server used in the table above would actually have a PVU rating of 70 which would lower it’s license cost even more increasing the delta between DB2 and Oracle.

What I hope you get out of my inaugural blog is that you don’t have to continue feeding the Oracle machine unless that is what you want – if so that is fine.  If you want options, then consider DB2.  Either way, there is only 1 platform to run your enterprise workloads that scale-out or scale-up with maximum efficiency, security, performance, reliability, availability (hold on – not done yet), serviceability, portability, flexibility, value and quality of service – Power servers.