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Dow Jones drops Sun for IBM pSeries

Dow Jones Indexes has switched from Sun to IBM pSeries servers to calculate its global market indexes and averages.

Dow Jones Indexes has switched to IBM pSeries from Sun Microsystems Inc. servers to calculate its global market indexes and averages -- the core port of which IBM performed for free in exchange for commitment to its platform.

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Dow Jones, one of the largest sources for live business information and investment indexes, migrated from 12 Sun servers to three p5570 boxes. The new systems run AIX with 64-bit Power5 processors that employ dynamic logical partitioning and simultaneous multithreading -- mainframe-inspired efficiency methods that basically aim to help assign tasks to where resources are most available.

"Over the past couple of years we looked at Sun, HP [Hewlett-Packard Co.] and other Unix players," said Jim Sloane, application technology director for Dow Jones. "But the numbers told the story. We converted to IBM primarily on benchmark performance."

Sloane said Dow Jones updates about 400 million times per day, averaging 65,000 calculations per second, and named vertical scaling and fall-behind as primary metrics when trying to gauge vendor value. Vertical scaling is the growth of processors within one operating environment. Fall-behind software essentially allows data to safely stockpile during spikes.

Both Dow Jones and IBM were tight-lipped about previous systems, as well as dollar amounts for the deal. But sources confirm the company is migrating off Sun servers. Sun's footing since its Unix dominance throughout the 1990s has significantly slipped, from leading the market by over 10 points four years ago to now trailing both IBM and HP, according to IDC.

Sloane said since its implementation last fall, the new system has lived up to its hopes.

"People pay us to calculate indexes for them, but every time we add an index it consumes more resources -- and we don't want to say no," Sloane said. "We expect to be on this platform for a good while -- I'd say a good decade."

That's a long time in IT years, but IBM shows all the signs of keeping a grip on the market, according to Charles King, principal analyst for Hayward, Calif.,-based Pund-IT Research.

"IBM has vaulted to [Unix] leadership for a few reasons," King said. "The power platform is an extremely flexible and high-performing system and they've consistently been able to wind up more performance out of the pSeries. And then you've got Sun, whose processor development has hit some serious snags. HP is in the process of abandoning PA-RISC and transition its customers to Itanium, which, not to downgrade it, but is a completely different architecture. So if you're contemplating staying, you're looking at sticky migration issues. So there's pretty clear technical leadership. It's great to have a good product and bumbling competitors."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Joe Spurr, News Writer

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