Is it really Solaris versus Windows & Linux?

(Even though the title explicitly states "Solaris Versus .. ", this blog entry is equally applicable to all the operating systems in the world with few changes.)

Lately I have seen quite a few e-mails and heard few customer representatives talking about the performance of their application(s) on Solaris, Windows and Linux. Typically they go like the following with a bunch of supporting data (all numbers) and no hardware configuration specified whatsoever.

  • "Transaction X is nearly twice as slow on Solaris compared to the same transaction running on Windows or Linux"
  • "Transaction X runs much faster on my Windows laptop than on a Solaris box"

Lack of awareness and taking the hardware completely out of the discussions and context are the biggest problems with complaints like these. Those claims make sense only when the underlying hardware is the same in all test cases. For example, comparing a single user, single threaded transaction running on Windows, Linux and Solaris on x86 hardware is appropriate (as long as the type and speed of the processor are identical), but not against Solaris running on SPARC hardware. This is mainly because the processor architecture is completely different for x86 and SPARC platforms.

Besides, these days Oracle offers two types of SPARC hardware - 1. T-series and 2. M-series, which serve different purposes though they are compatible with each other. It is hard to compare and analyze the performance discrimination between different SPARC offerings (T- and M-series) too with no proper understanding of the characteristics of the CPUs in use. Choosing the right hardware for the right job is the key.

It is improper to compare the business transactions running on x86 with SPARC systems or even between different types of SPARC systems, and to incorrectly attribute the hardware strength or weakness to the operating system that runs on top of the bare metal. If there is so much of discrepancy among different operating environments, it is recommended to spend some time understanding the nuances in testing hardware before spending enormous amounts of time trying to tune the application and the operating system.

The bottomline: in addition to the software (application + OS), hardware plays an important role in the performance and scalability of an application - so, unless the testing hardware is the same for all test cases on different operating systems, don't you just focus on the operating system alone and make hasty decisions to switch to other operating platforms. Carefully choose appropriate hardware for the task in hand.

Comments:

Right on, Giri!
Its a question many of us have often struggled with. Raising this level of awareness is absolutely the right thing to do. Thanx for raising this issue.

Vijay

Posted by Vijay Tatkar on October 10, 2010 at 01:01 PM PDT #

There are lots of similar stories. For instance, one benchmark showed that Linux was much faster than Solaris.

It turned out that Linux ran on a dual core Intel x86 at 2.4 GHz. Solaris ran on a SPARC machine at 800 MHz.

I would be surprised if Linux did not get better results then. You have to be dumb or biased to think such a benchmark is fair.

Posted by Kebabbert on October 26, 2010 at 07:51 PM PDT #

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