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64 bits

Sunday, November 14, 2004

I think 2005 will be a big year for AMD in the 64 bit server market. Dell has only shipped Intel chips for the longest time, but they are hinting about building 64 bit servers and workstations with AMD CPUs in the future. The move to AMD would make sense. From everything I’ve read, the 64 bit AMD chips are giving Intel a pretty thorough trouncing in performance and Intel is not catching up soon enough.

Most of our customers have a data warehouse in the 40GB – 300GB range, and some are growing at 100 MB a day. Not the biggest databases in the world by any means, but most of these hospitals are using conservative hardware. We do most of our performance testing against a 500 Mhz Pentium database server with 1 GB of RAM and a 100GB warehouse. If we can get a 10 second response times on this machine, it’s optimized for production use.

Most of our customers are not willing to fork over the money to keep the OLAP database and the warehouse on separate machines. They want to keep everything on a single machine to lower licensing and administration costs. The problem with the single machine setup is apparent when watching Analysis Services crunch through 100 million records during cube processing. It’s like watching a steel cage death match between OLAP and SQL Server as to who can grab the most RAM.

The single machine might work if only more memory were available. The 32 bit version of Analysis Services does not support Address Windowing Extensions (AWE), so the most memory the process can have is 3 GB with the /3GB switch enabled, a barrier the 64 bit version overcomes. SQL 2000 64 bit only supports Itanium, whose sales cannot seem to get off the ground. SQL 2005 will support AMD64. I’m thinking this will fly off the shelf for anyone doing OLAP work with a warehouse (though we’ve yet to see pricing for 2005).

I did a quick search for dual 64 bit Opteron servers on eBay today and found this. The server uses 40 400GB SATA drives to offer 16TB of storage, and has 8 GB of RAM. Yours for only $30,000 US. Just think, in five years, you could probably replace it with a notebook or cell phone.