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
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  • imaheadcase - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    Wow that was a great Anandtech article. Pictures are good for those not to bright! numbers for those smart folks! :P

    Good article all jokes aside.
    Reply
  • bersl2 - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    #3: The thing is, that the effectiveness of optimization flags is dependent on the application being used (specifically, what the application is doing and how it is designed). Activating the wrong optimization can have adverse effects on performance.

    I would say that -march=xxx is always helpful, -O and -Os are always helpful, -O2 is almost always helpful, -ffast-math is usually helpful, and you should hold your breath on most anything else. You can also try Acovea (http://www.coyotegulch.com/products/acovea/index.h... which applies a genetic algorithm to compiler flags. Just don't expect to come out ahead, given the number of compiles you have to perform for such a small amount of performance.
    Reply
  • hondaman - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    I'm quite surprised at the poor showing by gentoo vs suse. What compile flags where used out of curiousity?

    Not that I'd ever use gentoo again. Traitor. :(
    Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    If you mean AMD dominates benchmarks and applications server, desktop, and worksation wise then everything is "pro AMD" Reply
  • Quanticles - Friday, June 17, 2005 - link

    SUSE is very pro AMD, I guess it's worked out. =) Reply

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