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Benchmarking a very big Notes e-mail server

The NotesBench Consortium conducted a benchmark that showed IBM's new high-end eServer i5 595 hardware capable of handling 175,000 concurrent NotesBench R6 Mail users.

The NotesBench Consortium, an independent organization that provides Domino and Notes performance information to customers, recently conducted a benchmark that showed IBM's new high-end eServer i5 595 hardware capable of handling 175,000 concurrent NotesBench R6 Mail users, with an average response time of 33 msec. According to IBM, this is equivalent to managing e-mail for a population the size of the city of Geneva, Switzerland on a single IBM eServer iSeries server.

IBM also noted that this performance beats another recent NotesBench trial that showed a 16-way audit of 120,000 R6Mail users on an HP ProLiant server. But the fact that IBM holds the top spot for a Domino benchmark is hardly news. Starting with Domino 4.6, the iSeries or its predecessor, the AS/400, has held the top spot as the most scalable Domino server, said Jelan Heidelberg, IBM eServer Business Development Manager for Lotus. She said there are many architectural reasons for this, the main one being that the iSeries operating system (i5/OS) is optimized to work with Domino.

Still, no one expects this benchmark to translate into a surge of demand from the Domino community for the high-end server. For one thing, even if you were to rely on the common knowledge that two benchmark users equal one real-world user, you'd still be talking a theoretical installation, since Heidelberg notes that the largest Domino installations she knows of range from 40,000 to 50,000 users. Secondly, there's the price tag of the high-end i5 595. Standard 8/16-way configurations start at $670,300.

Still, said Heidelberg, the i5 595 will appeal to CTOs who want to provide better email service levels to end users, while at the same time reducing the cost per user. It may also appeal to corporations reducing server sprawl. As she notes, a large Domino installation running a server farm would face the problem of maintaining all those copies of Dominos and Windows over time.

Even if the i5/OS is optimized for Domino, an R6 mail administrator considering a move to the new server would face problems in moving from Windows. "You can turn over a rock and find an MCSE," says Michael Lazar, the owner of Illini Consulting in Chicago and a specialist in Domino administration. "But someone familiar with the i5/OS is a far rarer commodity. It's far more difficult to get iSeries talent than Windows talent."

The other problem for a Domino administrator, said Lazar, would be the relative scarcity of third-party tools for the i5 series. But even though benchmarks are not real-world figures, Lazar says they do sometimes have real-world repercussions.

You can find the benchmark at

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