"It looks the same on the powerpoint slide, but they are very different". The place is Austin, where an AMD engineer is commenting on the slides describing the Zen and Skylake schematics. In Portland, the Intel representatives could not agree more: "the implementation matters and is completely different". "We have to educate our customers that they can not simply compare AMD's 32 core with our 28 cores".

This morning kicks off a very interesting time in the world of server-grade CPUs. Officially launching today is Intel's latest generation of Xeon processors, based on the "Skylake-SP" architecture. The heart of Intel's new Xeon Scalable Processor family, the "Purley" 100-series processors incorporate all of Intel's latest CPU and network fabric technology, not to mention a very large number of cores.

Meanwhile, a couple of weeks back AMD soft-launched their new EPYC 7000 series processors. Based on the company's Zen architecture and scaled up to server-grade I/O and core counts, EPYC represents an epic achievement for AMD, once again putting them into the running for competitive, high performance server CPUs after nearly half a decade gone. EPYC processors have begun shipping, and just in time for today's Xeon launch, we also have EPYC hardware in the lab to test.

Today's launch is a situation that neither company has been in for quite a while. Intel hasn't had serious competition in years, and AMD has't been able to compete. As a result, both companies are taking the other's actions very seriously.

In fact we could go on for much longer than our quip above in describing the rising tension at the headquarters of AMD and Intel. For the first time in 6 years (!), a credible alternative is available for the newly launched Xeon. Indeed, the new Xeon "Skylake-SP" is launching today, and the yardstick for it is not the previous Xeon (E5 version 4), but rather AMD's spanking new EPYC server CPU. Both CPUs are without a doubt very different: micro architecture, ISA extentions, memory subsystem, node topology... you name it. The end result is that once again we have the thrilling task of finding out how the processors compare and which applications their various trade-offs make sense.

The only similarity is that both server packages are huge. Above you see the two new Xeon packages –with and without an Omni-Path connector – both of which are as big as a keycard. And below you can see how one EPYC CPU fills the hand of AMD's CEO Dr. Lisa Su. 

Both are 64 bit x86 CPUs, but that is where the similarities end. For those of you who have been reading Ian's articles closely, this is no surprise. The consumer-focused Skylake-X is the little brother of the newly launched Xeon "Purley", both of which are cut from the same cloth that is the Skylake-SP family. In a nutshell, the Skylake-SP family introduces the following new features: 

  1. AVX-512 (Many different variants of the ISA extension are available)
  2. A 1 MB (instead of a 256 KB) L2-cache with a non-inclusive L3
  3. A mesh topology to connected the cores and L3-cache chunks together

Meanwhile AMD's latest EPYC Server CPU was launched a few weeks ago:

On the package are four silicon dies, each one containing the same 8-core silicon we saw in the AMD Ryzen processors. Each silicon die has two core complexes, each of four cores, and supports two memory channels, giving a total maximum of 32 cores and 8 memory channels on an EPYC processor. The dies are connected by AMD’s newest interconnect, the Infinity Fabric...

In the next pages, we will be discussing the impact of these architectural choices on server software. 

AMD's EPYC Server CPU
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  • Nenad - Thursday, July 20, 2017 - link

    Interesting SPECint2006 results:
    - Intel in their slide #9 claims that Intel 8160 is 2% faster than EPYC 7601
    - Anandtech in article tests that EPYC 7601 is 42% faster than Intel 8176

    Those two are quite different, even if we ignore that 8176 should be faster than 8160. In other words, those Intel test results look very suspicious.
    Reply
  • twtech - Thursday, July 20, 2017 - link

    I'd really like to see some compile-time benchmarks for these CPUs.

    For my own particular interests, time taken to do a full recompile of the Unreal 4 engine from source would be very useful. But even something more generic like the Linux kernel compiles per hour benchmark could serve as a useful point of reference.
    Reply
  • szupek - Friday, July 21, 2017 - link

    Meanwhile, the entire world still runs on IBM's DB2 for Datbases and IBM's Z/AS400 Mainframes. The fastest database in the world, by far...oh and the most secure (it's only hackable by standing in front of the console, seriously). Every single credit card transaction. Every single plain ticket. Most medical records and all of wall street. Yup. IBM still owns. So much that most of commenters probably have no idea just how big IBM truly is. If you care about Database speed & security, these processors shouldn't appeal to you. Reply
  • stevefan1999 - Saturday, July 22, 2017 - link

    It's impossible for AMD to win completely.

    Remember kids, public cloud service providers such as Amazon(AWS), Google(GCP) and Joyent would still stick with Intel due to not only the compatibility issues like ecosystem and vendor inconsistency, but also the VM migration and security and module issues, all mentioned in the presentation slides presented by Intel. They are a very serious matter, as they, the public cloud services, are powering the Internet we use everyday, so being stable, consistent and be able to serve a good amount of SLA is vital to the public cloud, we wouldn't expect them to play with the new lad in the hood, the EPYC.

    IIRC only the Microsoft(Azure) are using AMD server CPUs partially in some of their datacenters, running various Linux and Windows VMs using Hyper-V, and they have been performing quite well

    The cloud services are exploding every year, but with what I've said, I doubt AMD could even kick in the first door at least for 3 to 4 years. This is still a big-win for Intel and what manipulations will Intel do I don't know.

    On the other hand, Intel has failed to service the desktop market and they're figuring out how to hold their asses on the Internet infrastructure, never had them know the crusade of EPYC will come this fast.

    The server market is quite a big meat, it's a 21 bil market, cool right? But that you will have guaranteed 'server upgrade' every year, is a bigger matter, as those server CPUs are designated to be disposed given the wattage and performance per dollar is lower on the newer CPUs. Those god-damn server operators will keen to replace their CPU (and therefore some serious metal pollution issues). Intel has been exploiting this and gained a big hurdle of money and therefore had their ecosystem grown. This is how Intel defends their platform by vendor lock-in, pathetic.

    AMD is now being performance and cost competitive to Intel, but it's still dead in the High Performance Computing campaign unless AMD could provide higher frequencies. Well I have to say I know nothing about HPC, but I remembered the Bulldozer architecture of AMD is actually targeted and marketed for HPC! That's why AMD failed in general-purpose computing market and started the downfall of AMD/Domination of Intel 5 years ago. Even though we know the fate of Bulldozer, but hopefully AMD could still scrap some of the HPC goodies of Bulldozer out and benefits the mankind by accelerating researches such as finding the cures for cancer or solving some precise physics and mathematics.

    Well, anyway the cloud, the HPC and the server market are the last resort for Intel and they will definitely hold their last ground. Good luck AMD on crushing the mean and obese Intel!
    Reply
  • errorr - Sunday, July 23, 2017 - link

    For all the talk about speed and efficiency the problem is about $$$. The sad fact is that what matters most isn't even the price of the cpus which is chump change in the grand scheme of things but how the software licensing costs are determined. Per core or per socket software pricing will matter a lot. The software companies will decide how successful EPYC is. I have a feeling they will be biased slightly toward AMD at the beginning as it is in their interest to foster competition for Intel, or if they are not forward looking enough the end customers might argue that the competition will benefit the SW companies in the long run by continuing to push competition. Reply
  • msroadkill612 - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    Whatever, its all pointless if the competition can read your secrets, which is a matter very close to the hearts of the cheque signers.

    AMD seem to have something very superior to offer in that department.
    Reply
  • qweqwe - Tuesday, August 08, 2017 - link

    we just did some heavy inhouse hpc-tests with epyc against diff. intel servers.
    the epyc is the clear winner in terms of performance and power consumption when it
    comes to hand-tuned parallel-vector-code examples.
    not bad amd !
    Reply

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