Friday, June 19, 2015

Information Builders: benefits by moving and shipping their product on Linux – IBM POWER8

By Rich Ptak and Bill Moran

With some 40 years[1] in business and 1400 employees worldwide, ISP Information Builders is clearly committed to delivering exceptional service to their customers. Their product, WebFOCUS8[2], is a business intelligence platform with an extensive list of capabilities. As described on their web site[3], it runs on a variety of platforms including the X86. They captured our attention when they announced the port of their product from x86 to IBM’s POWER8 platform.  After the port, the company’s experience and results were so positive that they announced its availability on their web site when they began shipping it to customers on request. The product is increasingly being installed at real customers operating a production environment, all available on POWER8.

We spent time discussing the product to gain insight on their porting and performance experiences moving to POWER8. Information Builder made very clear that IBM provided excellent support. Porting the application went smoothly with no problems as they only had to recompile the code. In addition, once the product was running on POWER8, they ran a number of benchmarks to compare the performance of WebFOCUS on a POWER8 platform versus an x86 platform in several different environments.

A video on their web site has all the details, including configurations, etc., of the comparison of the POWER 8 and x86 implementations. Three workloads were compared: a simple, a large, and a very complex one. Summarized results appear in the table below.

# Cores                                      Linux on POWER8                    Intel 
                                                 Reports per second              Reports per second
2 cores
4 Cores
8 Cores
The cases shown simulate 25 online users. Additional examples with varying numbers of users are included in the online data.

On average for these three cases, the POWER8 system produced about 70% more reports than the Intel system. Note that significantly fewer cores are required on the POWER8 system to produce equivalent thru-put as the Intel system. Two POWER8 cores completes as much work as 4 Intel cores while 4 POWER8 cores will match 8 Intel cores. Since most software is priced by the number of cores, this means lower software costs on the POWER8 system.

Information Builders is an extremely professional organization. We found their endorsement of POWER8 Linux to be significant and very impressive. Another example of their professionalism is the WebFOCUS solution sizing tool on their web site. It allows you to estimate the POWER8 configuration needed for a given WebFOCUS workload. Of course, these results apply only to their application. However, it does provide a powerful endorsement of the POWER8-Linux platform.

[1] For company background on the see the article at
[2] See the details at There is a short video that has benchmark details. It is well worth watching.