I’ll remember February 17, 2000, for years to come. You see, for the past few years, I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that it was only a matter of time before SQL Server became both the fastest and least expensive database in the world.

Well, it’s official. SQL Server 2000 running on Windows 2000 is the fastest database in the known universe. (SQL Server already was the least expensive, as measured by TPC-C cost per transaction.) Last Thursday, Microsoft announced that SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition running on Windows 2000 Advanced Server and using COM+ transaction support as the transaction processing monitor set a new world record of 227,079 for the TPC-C benchmark. The previous record, held by Oracle, was 135,815.

So, to my many naysayers, I say, "I told you so!" And to the dedicated Microsoft engineers who made this happen, I say, "Congratulations!"

According to a Microsoft press release, "The new result, 227,079.15 order transactions per minute (tpmC), was achieved on 12 Compaq ProLiant 8500 servers, each with eight Intel Pentium III Xeon 550 MHz processors, federated together into a single database system, and is greater than any result achieved on any other database, hardware or operating system. This result eclipses by 67 percent the previous record of 135,815 tpmC set on a single RISC/UNIX-based system. This result is also a 68 percent improvement over the best clustered result ever achieved, at 135,461 tpmC set on a four-node RISC/UNIX-based system with 96 processors. The rate of 227,079.15 transactions per minute represents a volume 575 times larger than the combined transaction volumes of Amazon.com and eBay."

Need something faster than that? The X-Files’ Fox Mulder might have an alien friend who can help, but you won’t find anything faster built by humans. Interestingly enough, Microsoft didn’t provide any price points for this benchmark. You know why? It doesn’t matter anymore. For the first time ever, SQL Server is both the fastest and the most cost-efficient database in the world. SQL Server has the best TPC-C performance and the lowest price-per-tpmC scores at any possible price point or server configuration.

Microsoft might not have mentioned the price per tpmC, but if you’re interested, it’s $19.12 per transaction for a total system cost of $4,341,750.48. The fastest non-Microsoft TPC-C score of 135,815 (which, with Microsoft owning the top two spots, is the third-fastest score overall) is $52.70 per tpmC for a total system cost of $7,157,450.50. That means the SQL Server 2000/Windows 2000 system is only 61 percent of the total cost of the Oracle/Unix system but provides 67 percent better performance.

These newest scores represent huge gains over Microsoft best SQL Server 7.0 results. Until last week, Microsoft’s best TPC-C score was less than 50,000. And this is just the beginning of Microsoft’s massive performance gains, according to its press release:

"Longer term, there are additional significant technology milestones ensuring an accelerating expansion of scalability for customers building and deploying solutions on the Microsoft platform. These innovations include the expected introduction in mid-2000 of Intel Pentium III Xeon-based servers with 16 and 32 processors, offering many times more power than existing eight-processor systems. In addition, following the introduction of Intel's 64-bit Itanium platform later in 2000, Microsoft plans to release 64-bit versions of Windows 2000 and SQL Server 2000. These state-of-the-art systems will allow customers to utilize terabytes of system memory for the most complex applications. Finally, the next version of SQL Server (code-named ‘Yukon’) will continue software scale innovation by introducing the second generation of scale-out partitioning, shared-nothing clustering technology. ‘Yukon’ will provide customers with tremendous additional gains in scalability while pushing the state of the art for reliability and manageability."

(Microsoft also announced record-smashing results for database benchmarks from major enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) vendors. You can read the entire Microsoft press release here).

Clever readers will notice that Microsoft’s new TPC-C scores are based on a new database clustering technology that isn’t available in SQL Server 7.0. You might also notice that the previous top TPC-C score was achieved on a single SMP-based IBM RS-64-III machine using 24 CPUs. Microsoft’s score was based on a 12-way cluster, with each SMP node running eight CPUs.

Is this a fair comparison? Is Microsoft guilty of a benchmark special? Ultimately, benchmarks are meaningless unless you can replicate the numbers under normal conditions in your production environment, and right now, none of us knows how easy it will be to configure and implement the "scale-out" partitioning that made Microsoft’s numbers possible. Only time will tell how practical this configuration will be for your application.

Stay tuned for more about SQL Server 2000 performance as its release draws closer. And watch for Microsoft to release a technical white paper any day now describing its high-performance database configuration. (SQL Server Magazine UPDATE will provide the white paper URL as soon as it’s available.)