Thirty-five per cent of its users run both their data warehouse and their OLTP (online transaction processing) on it. What is it? Not a mainframe but Sun’s super server, Starfire, or E10000.
Sun data centre marketing manager Chris Kruell, in New Zealand to drum up business, says data warehousing and OLTP are Starfire’s main applications and thanks to its ability to partition domains, many clients use it to run both. Although Starfire fits into the niche between midrange server and mainframe, in some ways it acts like a mainframe, but with more flexibility, says Kruell.
Airline reservation system Sabre uses Starfire to do yield management so it can optimise pricing on airline tickets.
“People are coming up with new classes of application that didn’t exist when the main-frames were growing up,” says Kruell. Using dynamic systems domains, Starfire is the only Unix system which can do partitioning.
“It’s similar to the IBM mainframe world, but with a mainframe the partitions are hosted on one operating system. On the Starfire, you can run different operating systems isolated from one another.”
Sun has found that 70% of its systems leave the factory pre-configured for multiple domains.
“There are a couple of uses for that — people are running multiple applications on the same platform, and from the Sun console, they can change the amount of CPU power they are delivering to each application on the fly. For example, you can switch resources between OLTP and batch loading. People are also consolidating a variety of platforms on to one Starfire.”
Last year Hamilton-based Livestock Improvement bought the first Starfire in Australasia as part of a project to consolidate different Unix applications and to migrate home-grown artificial breeding applications from an Amdahl mainframe.
“Not only are people running different applications in these domains, they are running different environments. For example, you could be running a production environment in one domain and a test environment in another. If the test domain happens to crash, the others are not affected.”
Kruell says the dynamic systems domains also improve performance. “If you have a data warehouse and OLTP on the same physical platform, you can move pointers to data rather than moving the data itself when you need to update the data warehouse. It takes only minutes to update.”
Starfire uses an SMP (symmetrical multi-processing) architecture and can scale up to 64 processors with almost linear performance, says Kruell.