TPC-C Result in Real World Terms: Big Macs and Walmart
IBM DB2 recently beat Oracle in the race to 10 million tpmC for the TPC-C benchmark. For fun, some of my engineering colleagues spent time putting this in “real world” terms. They wanted to be able to explain to their friends and family just how big the system is, without using jargon like tpmC.
Remember that the DB2 benchmark system processed 10.6 million new orders per minute. Well, if you extrapolate those numbers, such a system would be able to process the transactions if every man, woman, and child on the planet happened to go to McDonalds three times a day to purchase a Big Mac™. Not only that, but all of those transactions would be recorded in real time in a single database system. Of course, I am not advocating that everyone on the planet go out and exclusively dine in that manner. But if a retailer wants to cater for that eventuality, then we have the system for you
Next, they looked at these numbers from another angle. The TPC-C benchmark attempts to model the transactions of a hypothetical wholesale supplier. It includes information for sales districts, where each district has a sales warehouse. This benchmark system was able to process transactions for almost 1 million different sales distribution warehouses. Well, Walmart—the World’s largest retailer—currently has 8,446 stores. (Now, this is not intended to be a rigorous calculation, it is a simple and quick calculation that makes the questionable assumption that Walmart has one distribution warehouse for each store and ignores the relative size of those warehouses.) If you do the math, then this benchmark system can handle 120 times as many distribution warehouses as would be needed by the world’s largest retailer. Yes, that’s right… more than 100 times the number of the world’s largest.
At this stage, you are probably wondering about the applicability of these benchmark results. After all, would you really ever need a system that handles transactions for everyone on the planet eating three times a day in real time? The answer to that question is that today very, very few organizations need to process anything approaching that volume of transactions (and those that do, are often secretive). However, who knows what tomorrow may bring? After all, the world is becomming more instrumented all the time. Every day, there are new electronic devices that have the ability to create transactions (or simply supply information). There are new electronic health monitoring devices, electronic utility meters, electronic sensors in automobiles, and so on. We are only at the beginning of this era of machine-generated data and Big Data. Just think back 5 or 10 years at the volume of data that your IT department was processing. And now apply that growth level to the next 5 or 10 years. If we follow similar patterns, then such large systems might be here sooner than you think. And it will be good if you can be confident that your systems can scale to meet those needs.