Whatever Happened to Notes/Domino on the i?
August 9, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Sometimes, I feel like I must have fallen asleep under an apple tree for a long time and what I thought was real and important was perhaps one of many dreams I had while I was sleeping. So it is with the Notes/Domino messaging, groupware, and application serving platform for the Power Systems lineup. Be honest. When was the last time you heard IBM talk about Notes/Domino on the i? Me neither.
I can remember, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Notes/Domino stack was first running natively on OS/400 and the box had a lot more scalability than Windows or Linux X86 server alternatives, IBM used to pitch the AS/400–it was called that, back then, you’ll remember–and then the iSeries–the platform still had a name back then, don’t forget–as a consolidation platform, helping customers save money over the long haul on administration (certainly not on hardware or software licenses). It was a reasonable, if not always entirely convincing, proposition.
If you didn’t know, the new i 7.1 operating system for Power Systems does indeed run a native version of Domino 8.5X. To be precise, as you can see in this IBM software requirements document, Domino 8.5.1 runs on i 7.1. If you drill down a little further to the Domino-i compatibility guide, which was updated in July 2010, you will see that none of the prior Domino releases are supported on i 7.1. If you want to stick with i 6.1 or i 6.1.1, then Domino 8.5 is your option, unless you want to monkey around with lots of patches and program conversions, in which case you can use Domino 8.0.1 and 8.0.2 (but not 8.0) or Domino 7.0.3 or 7.0.4 (but not 7.0.1 or 7.0.2). When it comes to i5/OS V5R4 or V5R4M5 (the latter being the version of the operating system tweaked to support the initial Power6 machines from three years ago), you can run all of the releases from Domino 7.0.1 through 8.0.2 without mods, but you need to do program conversions and lots of patching to get Domino 8.5 or 8.5.1 to run on V5R4 or V5R4M5.
In short, the modern releases of Domino really require modern software releases, and this encourages (but does not require) somewhat more current hardware. This is how you know you are in the computer business.
But what about performance? I mean, what will you get out of moving to the new hardware and software releases? Well, that is apparently hard to say.
As best I can figure, the NotesBench Consortium, the independent organization for certifying and publishing Notes/Domino benchmarks on various platforms, has gone the way of all flesh. It looks like that happened sometime around early 2008, with the Notes/Domino 7.X stack. But for many years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you didn’t launch a Power-based server and its operating systems without talking about Domino performance on mail and calendar users. If you look on the performance section of the Power Systems portion of the IBM Web site, and then drill down to collaboration performance, you will see two links for NotesBench tests on Domino 6. These links point to some summary tables maintained by Ideas International, which has performance anxiety like I do. (I meant with regard to servers, people. This is a family newsletter.)
The latest IBM Power Systems Performance Report has some ancient AIX NotesBench Mail performance numbers for Domino 6.5.3 tossed in, presumably to let customers make their own best guesses about how Domino might scale with rPerf metrics and how the new Domino compares with something two versions ago. Ditto for the Domino Mail NotesBench results even older iron that is in the Power Systems Performance Report Archive, a snapshot up through August 2008.
IBM neglects to mention in either document that the i platform can run Domino workloads and has been tested lots of times using the NotesBench tests.
If it is any consolation, the AIX folks ain’t getting any better treatment when it comes to Domino performance data than the i folks.
In the myriad documents people send me from inside IBM, I did find one curious comparison that IBM cooked up to try to pitch the Power 750 server announced in February against racks of Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL380 G6 servers. Rather than do a real benchmark, this comparison used IBM’s Work Load Estimator (WLE) online tool, which business partners and sales reps have access to.
In this comparison, there is a shop that is running Domino mail servers on 40 DL380 G5 systems. Each of these two-socket machines, for some idiotic reason, is equipped with only one quad-core 2.83 GHz processor, for a total of 160 cores, and the CPUs are assumed to be only running at 20 percent of capacity. Each server has eight 15K RPM, 300 GB disk drives supporting the Domino mail server and is able to support 80,000 concurrent users. IBM reckons, using HP’s online configurators, that this hardware cost $423,560, with $27,480 in hardware maintenance over three years plus another $288,000 in Domino support costs (the licenses are already acquired), plus another $86,280 in operating system maintenance. (I presume this is Windows.)
Now, assume the customer wants to upgrade. IBM says the shop can buy 20 newer ProLiant DL380 G6 servers with a single quad-core chip running at 2.53 GHz and put the necessary 320 drives in external arrays, shelling out $432,000 for new hardware. IBM is venturing that these 20 newer machines could run at about 40 percent of total CPU capacity. The shop would have to spend another $191,800 for upgrades to more current Domino licenses, and over three years going forward would spend $15,644 on server maintenance, $201,600 on Domino support, and $43,140 on operating system support, for a total of $855,165, or $3.56 per Domino Mail user per year.
Instead, IBM says a single Power 750 with two six-core Power7 processors running at 3.3 GHz and 248 15K RPM disks with 300 GB of capacity can do the same job running at 90 percent of CPU. The Power 750 hardware (I do not have the exact configurations for memory on any of the machines) costs $517,000, and three years of hardware maintenance costs a staggering $122,004. But, the Domino licenses are a lot cheaper because there are only 12 cores in the Power 750 instead of 80 in the HP setup. We’re talking $41,100 for Domino (presumably for AIX, but the price should be the same on i), with three years of Domino support running $43,200. AIX software maintenance is only $4,056, leaving a total cost of acquisition of $727,360, or $3.03 per Domino Mail user per year.
A few bones to pick. One, there are ProLiant DL380 G7 machines out there, which can cram a dozen Xeon cores running at slightly faster speeds and plenty of main memory. IBM clearly only put one processor in each machine to wildly exaggerate how many servers it takes to support a given Domino workload. Seven ProLiant DL380 G7s running at 40 percent of CPU would do the trick today, and I think you could run them at 90 percent and cut it back to three. So right there, I can cut the basic hardware budget on the ProLiant side down to maybe $65,000. Maintenance scales back, as do OS licenses and Domino licenses. The proper HP number for an upgrade to new hardware and software to run Domino is probably a lot closer to $150,000. One other thing: The upgrade from the old ProLiant DL380 G5 machines to IBM machines means having to toss out 320 disks. But HP’s universal disks deployed in these old servers could be plugged right into MSA arrays at zero cost. The customer would not have to buy disks for external Power Systems drawers or DS arrays. And one more thing: if it takes 320 drives on the HP boxes, it takes 320 drives on the IBM boxes, not 248.
Once again, IBM shows why there needs to be independent and auditable benchmarks.