Everything you want and need to know about Oracle SPARC systems performance

SPARC T4 Processor Outperforms IBM POWER7 and Intel (Westmere AES-NI) on OpenSSL AES Encryption Test

Brian Whitney
Principal Software Engineer

Oracle's SPARC T4 processor is faster than the Intel Xeon X5690 (with AES-NI) and the IBM POWER7.

  • On single-thread OpenSSL encryption, the 2.85 GHz SPARC T4 processor is 4.3 times faster than the 3.5 GHz IBM POWER7 processor.

  • On single-thread OpenSSL encryption, the 2.85 GHz SPARC T4 processor is 17% faster than the 3.46 GHz Intel Xeon X5690 processor.

The SPARC T4 processor has Encryption Instruction Accelerators for encryption and decryption for AES and many other ciphers. The Intel Xeon X5690 processor has AES-NI instructions which accelerate only AES ciphers. The IBM POWER7 does not have cryptographic instructions, but cryptographic coprocessors are available.

Performance Landscape

The table below shows results when running the OpenSSL speed command with the AES-256-CBC cipher. The reported results are for a message size of 8192 bytes. Results are reported for a single thread and for running on all available hardware threads (no over subscribing).

OpenSSL Performance with
AES-256-CBC Encryption
Processor Performance (MB/sec)
1 Thread Maximum Throughput
(at number of threads)
SPARC T4, 2.85 GHz 769 11,967 (64)
Intel Xeon X5690, 3.46 GHz 660 7,362 (12)
IBM POWER7, 3.5 GHz 179 2,860 (est*)

(est*) The performance of the IBM POWER7 is estimated at 16 times the rate of the single thread performance. The estimate is considered an upper bound on expected performance for this processor.

Configuration Summary

SPARC Configuration:

SPARC T4-1 server
1 x SPARC T4 processors, 2.85 GHz
64 GB memory
Oracle Solaris 11

Intel Configuration:

Sun Fire X4270 M2 server
1 x Intel Xeon X5690 processors, 3.46 GHz
24 GB memory
Oracle Solaris 11

Software Configuration:

OpenSSL 1.0.0.d
gcc 3.4.3

Benchmark Description

The in-memory SSL performance was measured with the "openssl" command. "openssl" has an option for measuring the speed of various ciphers and message sizes. The actual command used to measure the speed of AES-256-CBC was:

openssl speed -multi {number of threads} -evp aes-256-cbc

"openssl" runs for several minutes and measures the speed, in units of MB/sec, of the specified cipher for messages of sizes 16 bytes to 8192 bytes.

Key Points and Best Practices

  • The Encryption Instruction Accelerators are accessed through a platform independent API for cryptographic engines.
  • The OpenSSL libraries use the API. The default is to not use the Encryption Instruction Accelerators.
  • Cryptography is compute intensive. Using all available threads streams, both the SPARC T4 processor and the Intel Xeon processor were able to saturate the memory bandwidth of the respective systems.

See Also

Disclosure Statement

Copyright 2011, Oracle and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Oracle and Java are registered trademarks of Oracle and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners. Results as of 9/26/2011.

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