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Volume 21, Number 13 -- April 2, 2012

IBM i Versus Oracle JDE Throwdown Redux

Published: April 2, 2012

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

When looking at a complex problem on deadline, you rarely get everything right the first time, or do as thorough a job as you would like. My price/performance analysis of the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne "Day In The Life" benchmark test on various Oracle Sparc T and IBM Power Systems and System x iron is no exception. A reader with very intimate knowledge shared a little insight, and I added some more vectors to the comparison.


Hi, Timothy:

I just read your newsletter article today. It was very thorough as expected from you. I just had a comment to make.

We went through the evaluation process comparing Exadata, commodity hardware for both Oracle database and Microsoft SQL, and the IBM Power 750. We went with the Power 750. One of the main reasons was the ease of use and ease of upgrading from our current iSeries. Also with the ability to use external disks, we can use one SAN.

One of the things I would like to point out as you did, is that support for hardware and software was not included in your comparison. This is a huge advantage for IBM since the support is bundled in the price.

--Name Withheld On Request


I have been preaching that IBM needs to quantify the advantages that this reader--and continuing faithful customer--points out above. I have tried to do it another way, by showing the difference in the price between the systems, which at least gives you a sense of what value the integrated and self-managing features of the IBM i platform have to be worth at the very least to make a credible argument to stay with the platform.

Because I am curious if not somewhat tireless, I went back to my monster JDE Throwdown spreadsheets from last week and, as this reader suggested, added in the costs of the hardware and software support over three years to the 10 configurations I examined, one set of five machines with the Oracle database and middleware software at the Enterprise Edition Level and the other set of five at the much less expensive Standard Edition level. I also added in the costs of Solaris 11 and Linux licenses with Premier Support from Oracle. And for good measure, I fixed a bug in my original IBM i licensing. On the database partitions, I had subtracted $9,000 from the initial $53,000 per core license fee when I should have subtracted $6,000, which is in fact the value of one year's worth of Software Maintenance on a core in a Power 570 or Power 750 machine.

I am not going to walk you through all the details on the JDE benchmark and the system setups again. If you need to review them, then check out last week's story again.

Oracle hardware Premier Support maintenance pricing is easy: It is 12 percent of the list price of the hardware, which you pay every year. So in eight years, you basically buy the hardware all over again, if you want to think about it that way. Oracle's support for its software is 22 percent of the list price of the software, which you pay on an annual basis. IBM's Software Maintenance support for IBM i on these classes of machines works out to 11.3 percent of the license cost for the bundled OS and database, and its hardware maintenance is all over the place, with the base chassis, the processor cards, and expansion boxes requiring their own maintenance. (Memory and disk drives in Power Systems are covered under the hardware maintenance contracts for the chassis.)

So here's the revised monster Oracle Enterprise Edition versus IBM i and System x system comparison table, which adds in hardware and software maintenance. And here's what it looks like graphically when you add it all up and divide by the number of users supported:



Our intrepid reader is right. Oracle charges crazy stupid more money on its database support, and that actually makes the overall solution a bit more expensive than a Power 750. The Oracle Sparc T3-M3000 hybrid setup and the Sparc T4-2 clusters are still way, way less expensive than a prior-generation Power 570 system that IBM ran the JDE benchmarks upon, and that is a testament to the great value the Power 750 offers, to be sure. But it is in a dead heat with Oracle's past and current generations, at list price with hardware, software, and support all in.

As I pointed out last week, this first comparison assumed at all software is running at the Enterprise Edition level. This is not necessarily a valid assumption, particularly for this class of machine. (Forgive me, but this is not exactly big iron. I have two two-socket servers, and one of them a brand new Xeon E5-2600 server made by Intel for me to review, within arm's reach as I type this, and I am pretty sure that Intel box will smoke the Power 750 that IBM used in the JDE benchmark test.)

So, just to see how low Oracle can lower the boom on two-socket and four-socket servers running its Standard Edition of the Oracle 11g database and the WebLogic application server, I cooked up the second JDE Throwdown monster table:



Just like before, switching to Oracle Standard Edition stack basically cuts the cost of the Oracle setup in half--and the Sparc T4 setup is now 48 percent less expensive than the Power 750 setup. Yes, if there was an IBM i Solution Edition variant for JDE software for the Power 750, the cost might come down a bit for the Power 750. But not that much, unless IBM thinks it is going to lose the account. And even then, IBM will cut prices on the iron, now the software licenses and support going forward and certainly any new capacity you add to this box (you could add another processor card) will never get that steep discount you got on the initial iron.

I am not trying to bash the IBM i platform. It bears repeating what I said last week: There are a lot of other factors that go into making a system decision to run JDE applications. Oracle databases need a lot more handholding than DB2 for i--that's just a fact--and this comparison does not take into account the human costs of using Oracle software. (Oracle basically outsources those costs to you.) Moreover, the IBM i operating system is arguably easier to support than either Solaris or Linux, and especially for a shop that has deep knowledge of the OS/400 family and very little knowledge of Solaris or Linux and even less desire to gain it.

I think IBM needs to do a better job quantifying these factors and prove that the IBM i actually competes well against these machines. It would surely help the case if Power 750 machines had a lower cost IBM i Standard Edition stack to go up against Oracle, and it would also help if IBM actually ran some tests on the Power 720 and Power 740 Solution Edition machines where the bang for the buck is presumably better and the machine size is more appropriate for the vast JDE customer base than the Power 750 or the Sparc T4 machines that the two vendors fielded in their latest tests.

Everything I have said in the past two weeks about JDE workloads applies to every other key ISV that supports the IBM i platform, and IBM has to do more to help them make the case for IBM's midrange platform. I am willing to help, even more than I already do.


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