The current market situation

Depending on the source and the definition of "server", the x86 servers are good for about 33% - 50% of the revenue ($49 billion) of the server market. Depending on the report, the AMD Opteron has captured a bit more than 5% of the total x86 server market.

It is interesting to note that Linux is the server operating system of a little more than 9% of the servers, but the number of Linux servers is growing with about 40%. More than 60% of the Opteron servers are running Linux (according to IDC), while the lion share of the Xeons are running 32 bit Windows. It is clear that the Opteron rise in the market share is not only slowed down by the rapid ramp of EM64T Xeons, but also by the lack of a 64 bit Windows 2003.

In the second half of 2004, already one million EM64T Xeons were shipped, about three times as many as the total number of Opterons shipped until then. The percentage of 64 bit systems deployed is thus increasing rapidly, making the switch to 64 bit software more interesting for developers too.

Xeon and Opteron

Since our previous test, four interesting new CPUs have entered the scene. First of all, there is the Pentium-D. Although the Pentium D is a desktop CPU, it is a very interesting low cost solution for low end servers, so we decided to include it in this review. Of course, a Pentium-D server does not have the same RAS features as an Opteron or Xeon based machine. The Pentium-D requires a heavy power supply: cheap 400 Watt power supplies in our lab were not able to power up the Pentium-D, even with a relatively slow Geforce FX 5600 PCIe video card.

Secondly, there is the Intel Xeon Irwindale, which is essentially the Xeon version of the desktop Pentium 6xx series ("Prescott core") that includes a massive 2 MB L2-cache. Also interesting is the "Demand Based Switching" feature of the new Xeons: this allows them to throttle back to 2.8 GHz when the load on the server is low. This results in about 15 to 20% in power savings on the CPU's power dissipation. The Xeon Irwindale is a demanding CPU: it requires 110 Watt under full load.

Cool'n quiet is functional on the new 2.6 GHz Opteron 252, and offers much more impressive power gains. Power dissipation is reduced from 92.6 W (only attainable under extreme conditions) to less than 20 Watt.

The new Dual core Opteron makes our test complete. While Windows (XP and 2003) recognized and utilized the cores easily, SUSE SLES 9 Linux was a little more stubborn. With the original SLES 9 kernel 2.6.5-97, the dual Opteron would just crash. We applied Service Pack 1 and the new Opteron would boot and recognize the two cores, but the second CPU was disabled because of APIC IRQ problems.

Therefore, we were only able to run the Dual core Opteron on Gentoo with a 2.6.12 kernel.

A quick table to refresh your memory and to enable you to compare price/performance:

Intel   Xeon CPUs Core L2 cache L3-cache x86 -64 bit? Power saving? In test? Price
3.60 GHz w/ 2M cache 800 MHz FSB (90nm) Irwindale = "Nocona, twice as big L2" 2 MB No Yes DBS Yes $851
3.2 GHz w/ 2M cache 800 MHz FSB (90nm) Irwindale = "Nocona, twice as big L2" 2 MB No Yes DBS Yes $455
3.60 GHz w/ 1M cache 800 MHz FSB (90nm) Nocona = " Prescott server" 1 MB No Yes DBS Yes $690
3.40 GHz w/ 1M cache 800 MHz FSB (90nm) Nocona = " Prescott server" 1 MB No Yes DBS No $455
3.20D GHz w/ 1M cache 800 MHz FSB (90nm) Nocona = " Prescott server" 1 MB No Yes DBS No $316
3 GHz w/ 1M cache 800 MHz FSB (90nm) Nocona = " Prescott server" 1 MB No Yes DBS No $256
               
3.20C GHz w/ 2M cache 533 MHz FSB (.13) Galatin = "P4 EE Server" 0,5 MB 2 MB No No Yes $1,043
3.20 GHz w/ 1M cache 533 MHz FSB (.13) Galatin = "P4 EE Server" 0,5 MB 1 MB No No No $690
3.06A GHz w/ 1M cache 533 MHz FSB (.13) Galatin = "P4 EE Server" 0,5 MB 1 MB No No Yes $455
3.06 GHz w/ 512k cache 533 MHz FSB (.13) Prestonia = "Northwood Server" 0,5 MB No No No Yes $316
Pentium 4-D "Dual Prescott - Smithfield"  2 x 1 MB  No  No  No  Yes  $312
             
AMD Opteron CPU's Core L2 cache L3-cache x86 -64 bit?   In test? Price
Model 275 (2x 2.2 GHz) Dual core 2x 1 MB No Yes Cool'n Quiet Yes* $1299
Model 265 (2x 1.8 GHz) Dual core 2x 1 MB No Yes Cool'n Quiet No $851
Model 252 (2.6 GHz) Troy 1 MB No Yes Cool'n Quiet Yes $851
Model 250 (2.4 GHz) Sledgehammer 1 MB No Yes No Yes $690
Model 248 (2.2 GHz) Sledgehammer 1 MB No Yes No Yes $455
Model 246 (2.0 GHz) Sledgehammer 1 MB No Yes No No $316
Model 244 (1.8 GHz) Sledgehammer 1 MB No Yes No Yes $209

The introduction of Irwindale resulted in Intel reducing the prices of the Xeon "Nocona", making this CPU more attractive. The Dual core Opteron is still a bit pricey, but definitely an alternative for two Opterons or two Xeons.

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  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, June 18, 2005 - link

    Mino, thanks for pointing that out. Query cache enabling has nothing to do with "stressful". It has to do with accelarting a few queries that are run over and over again. Which is very interesting for reducing the response time of a website serving up the last article, but which is not limited by CPU power at all.



    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, June 18, 2005 - link

    To the people who make a fuss about disabling the query cache: this has nothing to with the Opteron not performing well in that situation. Single Xeon: 980 queries/s. Dual xeon: 985 queries/s Opteron 250: 1020 queries/s . Get it now why I say "other bottlenecks started to kick in"?

    It impossible that a dual xeon can't outperform a single one in these tests. We tried to find the bottleneck and even used a quad opteron 850 as client. The client was not the problem. My bet is on the network latency, but I have no knowledge of tools to profile the complete machine. The disk was not the problem, we tested that. Network bandwidth neither. My bet is on the network latency, or even the OS as the bottleneck kicked in a lot sooner w kernel 2.4
    Reply
  • mino - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    #32 try to think for a moment
    "Because the Opteron can't perform that well in stressful situations you won't post the scores?"

    If the CPU is not the bottleneck in the query cache scenario then why test the effect of CPU at all !!!

    You reminded me friend of mine who "tested" effect the "FSB" has on A64 system NOT having an FSB at all !!! ;-)
    Funny guy indeed.

    And about an intel compiler not beeing used.
    Like it or not, It IS a fact that it is not widely adopted especially among the target audience of this site an article.

    BTW given the past experience intel compiler would produce better code even on AMD systems so don't be so sure! Best code for K7 is made by intelcc set to PIII config. Albeit it does not use 3DNow! functionality at all.
    Reply
  • ElMoIsEviL - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    I think I have to agree with #20, as much as I am un-biased I feel this test was doctored by AMD... it ressembles the tests we see released by Apple often...

    "We didn't use the Intel compiler version as we have reason to believe that this version is not used a lot in the real world. We might try it out in a future article."

    Translation, "with the intel compiler AMD lost so being a marketing force for AMD we opted not to post those scores".


    and also as was mentioned before...
    ""The " query cache" was off, as we wanted to test worst case performance. In some cases, the query cache was able to push a single Xeon to 1000 queries per second, and the CPU was still capable of doing more, as the CPU load was at 50% - 70%."

    Why not?
    Because the Opteron can't perform that well in stressful situations you won't post the scores?

    Seriously.. this test is the biggest load of BS I have ever read... and I'm a current AMD adopter.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    Viditor, it is possible that the IOMMU might have to do something with it.

    The IOMMU is a memory mapping unit sitting between the I/O bus and physical memory.

    Memory mapping is AFAIK only necessary if a certain device (PCI devices come to mind) can not do a 64 bit DMA. Now it seems that almost everything inside the newest Intel southbridges can do 64 bit DMA.

    So the IOMMU can only play a role when the driver is a 32 bit only, and the memory mapping has to happen. Now I would think that Intel would have an advantage here with their ultra modern southbridges. There might be a device that I am overlooking of course. Maybe our SCSI controller... But I don't think so.
    Reply
  • Viditor - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    Johan, if you're still reading (great article BTW)...
    A question I have had for quite awhile now is what effect the IOMMU has on these tests.
    The reasons I'm asking are
    1. I noticed that there was quite a disparity between the AMD and Intel 64bit performance (which you mentioned).
    2. I know that one difference between the 2 platforms is that AMD has a hardware IOMMU (of sorts) and Intel (at present) does not.
    3. I saw a thread last year with Linus T mentioning this quite a bit. He seemed to think that this would impair the EM64T substantially...

    Your thoughts?
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    If your database is running many "identical databases".... I meant "queries"

    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    Juhl: It was 2.6.12rc5.

    Viditor: thanks for the helpful comment. Indeed, if you turn on the query cache, your CPU is doing very little.
    Everybody else: note the "identical" word in viditor's quote. If your database is running many identical databases, than you are not going to spend time reading this kind of article: you simply buy the cheapest decent server. Any CPU today can run 1000s of querries if everything comes out the query cache.

    Running benchmarks with the query cache on is simply not interesting. The query cache is all about accelerating the IDENTICAL queries that are run from time to time. You might reserve a bit of RAM to make sure that the most common queries (getting the latest article of a website for example) are run faster.

    But those numbers don't tell you anything about the load that your server is going to be able to take. You want worst case performance numbers!
    Reply
  • Viditor - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    Questar - the reason the query cache was turned off (guessing here) is to more reasonably simulate a real-world test. Obviously in this test, the same queries are repeated quite often. But that is not usually the case in the real world...
    For those who don't know what the heck a "query cache" is:

    "the query cache stores the text of a SELECT query together with the corresponding result that was sent to the client. If the identical query is received later, the server retrieves the results from the query cache rather than parsing and executing the query again"
    Reply
  • Questar - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    #23,

    We don't know, it specifically says Xeon. We don't have any idea what happens on an Opteron.
    Reply

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