Tech titans Oracle and IBM are going at it over Oracle's claims that its new Sparc servers use the world's fastest microprocessor. IBM has taken public exception to the claims and the word battle is heating up.

Oracle's says its new Sparc T5 servers have set 17 world records and are the best platforms for enterprise Relevant Products/Services computing at any scale, delivering the best value for database and enterprise applications. Many of its claims take aim directly at IBM.

Other claims include: Oracle's Sparc T5-8 is the fastest single server for Oracle Database; Oracle's Sparc T5-8 is also the fastest single server for Oracle Middleware with a 12 times cost-performance advantage over the IBM Power 780; Oracle's Sparc T5-8 server has a 2.5 times price-performance advantage over the IBM P780 3-node cluster, when including hardware and software Relevant Products/Services cost; and Oracle's Sparc T5-8 server has a 7 times price advantage over a similar IBM Power 780 configuration for database on a server-to-server basis.

IBM Fights Back

"Against IBM's best published results, using independently confirmed industry-standard public benchmarks, Oracle delivered 5x, 7x, even 12x better cost performance," said John Fowler, Oracle's executive vice president for hardware, in a statement. "Oracle's Sparc T5 performance and cost-performance advantages are so huge that subtle changes in IBM configuration specifics don't make up that gap. IBM customers are being wildly over-charged for the performance they're getting."

Colin Parris, general manager of the Power line of IBM systems, said he was "surprised" and "pleased" and "astonished" by what Ellison said, according to The Wall Street Journal. IBM could not immediately be reached for comment, but Parris was quoted as saying, "This was a frozen-in-time discussion. It was like 2002 -- not at all in tune with the market today."

So who's right and who's hyping it up? We asked Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, for his take on the drama. He told us the new Oracle Sparc T5 looks like a significant upgrade based on the results of tests. That said, he has questions about some of the head-to-head comparisons that Oracle claims around system performance. That's because some of the tests were conducted internally.

Sifting the Rhetoric

"There were some results they submitted to TPC but if you take a look at systems where they are claiming system supremacy, many of the other systems that are on the top 10 list are in some cases 3 and 5 years old," King said.

"In the server world, anything over 6 to 9 months old is extremely old news. So claiming that your system beats systems that are 2 or 3 years old is like a senior in high school beating up on a sixth grader."

King said the rhetoric in Oracle's announcement was very much aimed at IBM, which is understandable considering Big Blue is the leading vendor in the server space today. But Oracle has lost some credibility with such rhetoric.

"Oracle was cited three times last year for making false claims about the performance of its products compared to IBM by the National Advertising Review board," King said. "Given that and the competitive landscape and the unit space right now, I'd be cautious about taking anything from the announcement too literally."