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Linux on Intel or RISC?

A Unix-Linux migration expert warns a user to consider customer needs when purchasing the latest hardware, like Intel, RISC or mainframes, in order to find out where performance should be emphasized.

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Is Linux best used on Intel architecture or is it possible to use it on RISC-based architecture, like the p5 system? Where is the best performance advantage to be obtained?
One of the biggest selling points of Linux is that not only does it run on Intel, but also RISC (Sun, HP and IBM) and even the IBM mainframes(zSeries). It runs well on each platform, though obviously each one has its pros and cons. It's hard to really come out and say where the best performance advantage is, because so much depends on how much you can spend, how important performance is to your company and what type of infrastructure you support.

If your funds are unlimited and raw horsepower/availability and performance drive your company, I would not question looking at an IBM System p solution, particularly if you already use the IBM flavor of Unix (AIX) in your company. One of the selling points of the IBM System p solution is that one can logically partition a System p server into both Unix and Linux partitions. The POWER6, IBM's new 4.7 GHz thoroughbred, just released...

this past month, has already broken many performance records. Oracle recently announced two of these, based on the two-tier SAP and Distribution model. It's important to note that these were broken on AIX and not Linux. Linux will run a little slower then AIX on System p, but still breathtakingly fast enough for most.

Before rushing in and buying the latest and greatest, look at publicly available benchmarks which will help you get a sense of what you can expect on your system. Do some system sizing and try to determine what your real needs are. Find out from your customers what translates into acceptable performance. The last thing you want to do is buy a Mercedes, when all you really needed was a Kia. The big selling point with Linux and Intel is that Linux can run on commodity hardware (PCs) which costs very little. Again, you'll need to determine the type of iron you can afford and acceptable performance thresholds. From there, you can then start to do some price comparisons and look at what infrastructure your IT department is best able to support.

This was first published in July 2007

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