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Microsoft "WebSphere Loves Windows" ads tout cost, performance vs. AIX

Microsoft's new ad campaign, "WebSphere Loves Windows," compares an IBM Power6 server running AIX to an HP blade running Windows. According to Microsoft, the Windows box isn't just cheaper; it has better performance, too.

Microsoft kicked off a new advertising campaign last week targeted at high-performance datacenter servers. At the cornerstone of campaign, dubbed "WebSphere loves Windows," is a series of tests that Microsoft says shows an IBM WebSphere benchmark application running faster on Windows than on AIX.

The campaign is Microsoft's enterprise-focused counterpart to its "I'm A PC" and Apple Tax ads, which respectively aim to dispel the notion that PC users are un-cool and bolster the notion that Apple's computers are disproportionately expensive. Enterprises often use Windows within departments, but many companies don't consider Windows powerful enough for datacenters, said Microsoft senior director developer of platform marketing Steven Martin.

To combat that perception, Microsoft ran an IBM WebSphere benchmark application called Trade on an HP blade server running Windows. Those tests showed the system beating out an IBM Power6 server running AIX that cost more than $170,000 more than the Windows-based stack. Microsoft also wrote a .NET version of Trade, called StockTrader, which it says gets even higher performance -- and without the $37,000 WebSphere layer.

When Microsoft ran IBM's Trade application on the AIX Power6 system, it achieved about 8,000 transactions per second (TPS), Martin said. That same application running on WebSphere on the cheaper HP blade server got about 11,000 TPS, and the native .NET version was able to carry out just over 12,500 TPS, he said.

According to the whitepaper, the Power6-AIX system cost about $260,000, including WebSphere. The HP-Windows system cost about $87,000 with WebSphere and $50,000 without it.

Details about the benchmarks, including pricing, specific configurations and performance numbers are in a Microsoft whitepaper on StockTrader. Martin conceded that benchmark tests from a vendor are often viewed with skepticism, but he said that Microsoft made StockTrader's source available specifically to let companies test the configurations for themselves.

"I'd love for customers to compare this head to head," he said. "We think the proof is absolutely in the pudding here."

IBM could not be contacted in time for this article.

Microsoft hopes the WebSphere Loves Windows campaign will resonate at a time when companies are trying to cut back costs in response to the global recession. That Intel-based servers running Windows are cheaper than IBM hardware and software isn't revolutionary, but the current perception is that the Wintel stack is cheaper because it can't perform in high-end datacenters, Martin said.

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