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.

Index Benchmark Configuration
POST A COMMENT

45 Comments

View All Comments

  • erwos - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    If they used RHEL4, this would be far more useful. SuSE's not quite a bit player, but let's face it: Red Hat is dominating the commercial space.

    -Erwos
    Reply
  • SunLord - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    Interesting benchmark though i would of prefered you used a postgresql instead of DB2 since it's also open source and is the most likely alternnative to mysql... a DB2/Oracle bench would be kinda cool... Reply
  • Son of a N00b - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    nice work guys! Reply
  • nserra - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    #6 "but very important: AMD, OPEN YOUR EYES AND SEE WHAT INTEL IS DOING WITH PRICING ON DUAL CORES! don't get cought with pants down."

    Explain me something:

    - how do you explain or how Intel will explain that their single core processor cost more than the dual core ones?
    - Why should you buy a single core over a dual core if it cost more?
    - How good is this Intel market decision (marketing).

    I think is pretty logical to me that a dual core cost more than a single core processor so 4800+ more expansive than a 4000+ so it's OK! Stop blaming AMD, and their marketing team!
    Reply
  • Viditor - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    Calin - "Unfortunately, it seems that their dual core processors will be more expensive than Intel's"

    Actually, that's not true at all!
    The fact is that AMD haven't released a "Value Line" of dual core yet because they don't see a large enough market for it.
    By comparing the 2 companies offerings, it's apparent that the 820D should match up equvalently to a dual core Sempron when it's released, and the ($1000) 840EE matches up to the ($500) 4200+ rather nicely.
    The 4400+ and the 4800+ are in a class by themselves without competition at the moment, hence the prices are high.
    Reply
  • AlexWade - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    I like these real world benchmarks articles. Reply
  • snedzad - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    Again "Root me" wallpaper. Moron. Reply
  • Starglider - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    I would guess that the problem is the netburst architecture's fast integer units. As I recall, the P4 integer units are split into two 16-bit stages and run at double the main clock using complicated differential signaling logic. I seriously doubt it would be feasible for Intel to add another two stages or to double the width of the units, as they're already power and chip area hungry and pretty much integral to the design. AMD on the other hand designed the Opteron to be 64-bit from the ground up and is running at a lower clock speed, making 64-bit wide single stage logic much easier.

    Thus the authors speculation that the P4 is taking twice as many cycles to process 64-bit simple integer operations (while the Opteron needs no additional cycles) seems highly likely to me. I'm one of those (apparently) rare programmers that needs to use 64-bit integers a lot, so it's not surprising that all our compute servers are Opteron powered.
    Reply
  • Calin - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    I really hope AMD will get a share of the higher profit server processor market. Unfortunately, it seems that their dual core processors will be more expensive than Intel's Reply
  • ZalmanKalman - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    Wow, great and detailed artical. The punchline is so sweet to my ears. Vary sad to INTeL Fans, but I guess they buy, and will buy, intel b/c of corporate safty.

    but very important: AMD, OPEN YOUR EYES AND SEE WHAT INTEL IS DOING WITH PRICING ON DUAL CORES! don't get cought with pants down.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now