The Data Center of the Next Millennium

At Comdex/Fall '99, in the most impressive proof-of-concept demonstration to date of Windows 2000's (Win2K's) scalability, Unisys and a consortium of industry partners created a massive Web site for a hypothetical e-commerce company: Interstellar Outfitters, a supply station for spaceships and stations. As part of The Data Center of the Next Millennium demonstration, this Web site managed 4000 transactions per second (tps), or just under 5 billion Web hits and 300 million page requests per day.

Unisys modeled the application to provide a realistic business application and a metric for the amount of e-commerce business that this fictitious company might achieve. In current terms, this Web site can serve the Christmas e-commerce needs of the entire world times 30. Based on average Web e-commerce transactions, the site can accommodate $187 billion transactions per year—the equivalent of all the world's current e-commerce.

Windows NT has had trouble capturing the largest of the world's Web sites, and this technology demonstration was a dramatic and successful project meant to prove that Win2K is ready for prime time in the data center. This project, with an estimated cost of about $12 million in hardware and software, was of mainframe class. Win2K's price for performance of hardware and applications was its main selling point and the decided advantage over UNIX.

At a press conference to introduce the project, Lawrence Weinbach, chairman and CEO of Unisys; Steve Ballmer, president and CEO of Microsoft; and Mike Ruettgers, CEO of EMC, described their support for an industry alliance of partners that will work together to bring Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server) into the data center. Project partners include Cisco Systems, EMC, Giganet, Imation, Intel, Mercury In-teractive, Microsoft, NetIQ, QLogic, and StorageTek.

Weinbach said that Unisys and its partners put the project together to prove that they could achieve the desired results "with NT, faster and cheaper than anyone else." Ballmer estimated that the group achieved the expected results for between one-fifth and one-third the cost of a similar project in a UNIX RISC environment. Ruettgers said, "EMC had predicted 2.5 years ago that NT would supplant UNIX in the data center." Although the late release of Win2K Server into the market has altered the time line, EMC stands behind this prediction.

The transactional architecture consisted of three connected layers for online transaction processing (OLTP), business intelligence, and directory services. The partners chose the OLTP architecture to simulate a shopping-cart Web application with transactions conforming to industry benchmarks. The business intelligence application queried a 9TB database fed by replicating the shopping-cart data. The partners built queries to model industry benchmarks and created an Active Directory (AD) of more than 50 million objects.

That this Win2K Data Center project began in June 1999 as a drawing on a napkin made by engineers for the companies involved is stunning. The project partners completed the project by early November 1999.

To create the Data Center, Unisys used almost 40 percent of all the 4-way and 8-way servers that the company manufactures in a month. The project also had twenty 4-way Unisys Aquanta ES5000 front-end Web servers running Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), six 8-way ES5000 servers running COM+ transactions, and two 8-way servers clustered to run a 2TB Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 database in a passive and active arrangement. The partners loaded SQL Server 7.0 on the COM+ servers to provide fast querying of the OLTP database. Administrators managed the Data Center from a single sign-on (SSO) using any workstation connected through the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). The administrators said that during 5 months of stress testing, the Data Center encountered only one blue screen.

All the interconnect technology was Giganet cLAN interconnect (high-speed LAN), with the exception of a fibre channel connection to the EMC Symmetrix 3830 storage system. Giganet has been involved in several large NT data center implementations, including the Advanced Cluster Computing Consortium (AC3). For more information about AC3, see "World's Largest Windows NT Cluster Goes Live,", InstantDoc ID 7149.

Although the likelihood that many companies will abandon legacy equipment to install a data center of this type is slim, many brick and mortar companies, which are setting up a Web interface and making major purchasing decisions, will want to take a look at this demonstration. Edmund Muth, marketing director for the IT Platform at Microsoft, said that several countries are deciding to move their social services operations onto the Web, and that this project will resonate with such customers. Unisys is already working with Canada on such a project, and we are likely to see many of these large data center projects appear closer to home.

Unisys used Windows 2000 Advanced Server (Win2K AS) and not Windows 2000 Datacenter Server (Datacenter) to complete the e-commerce site part of the Data Center project. Given the performance level of this project without Datacenter, you have to wonder what the demand for Datacenter will be when it finally ships.

The e-commerce Web site was only one part of the Data Center demonstration, albeit the major part. The glass house also had two 8-way servers running Datacenter, and Win2K Server Terminal Services ran on a couple of 8-way systems. One of those 8-way machines ran Microsoft Office on Terminal Services, and the second 8-way machine created a client load against the NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition (WTS) server. In benchmarks using scripts that Unisys created, the 8-way WTS server ran 230 active client connections. Although the benchmarks sound impressive, these results translate to the maximum utilization of only six of the eight system processors.

A SQL Server 7.0 server managed EMC's 9TB data warehouse on a 43TB Symmetrix Enterprise Storage Area Network (SAN) that used EMC TimeFinder and EMC Data Manager (EDM) software. The data warehouse also used one server to maintain an active 2TB OLTP database and used EMC hardware and software to back up the system to tape at the rate of more than 1TB per hour.

Numerous potential data center customers flew in from around the world specifically to view this technology demonstration. The results generally impressed analysts, also. This demonstration makes believing that Windows will be a significant player in the data center market in a few years much easier.

The Aberdeen Group has documented the project in a report at Unisys plans to publish an architectural white paper about the project in first quarter 2000. You can find more information about the project at

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