Joe Chang tosses a hardware-related bomb:
Today, it is time to consider the astonishing next step, that a single socket system is the best choice for a transaction processing systems. First, with proper database architecture and tuning, 12 or so physical cores should be more than sufficient for a very large majority of requirements.
We should also factor in that the second generation hyper-threading (two logical processors per physical core) from Nehalem on has almost linear scaling in transactional workloads (heavy on index seeks involving few rows). This is very different from the first generation HT in Willamette and Northwood which was problematic, and the improved first generation in Prescott which was somewhat better in the positive aspects, and had fewer negatives.
Joe knows a lot more about this than I do, but I’m very hesitant about this for two reasons. First, scale. When we start looking at hundreds of concurrent requests, would a single-socket machine really work? I don’t know to answer to that, but in my simplistic “more is better than fewer” rule of thumb, I’d err on the side of caution, especially if it isn’t my money paying for this.
Second, there are batch processes and large background activities which occur even on extremely transactional OLTP systems. Think about running CHECKDB or ETL processing or troubleshooting/monitoring processes. These are going to be processes which benefit from parallelism, and if you’re seriously limiting core counts (which a single socket would necessarily do), you might end up in a bad way when they run even if your “normal” workload performs a little better.