Conclusion

Two months of testing and tweaking allowed us to gather a lot of information. Our Sybase and DB2 tests still need a bit of tweaking before we can publish result on them, but with tests on SSL, JSP, LAMP, MySQL and PostGreSQL, what can we conclude so far?

Sun's T2000 server and it's 32 thread T1 CPU turned out very variable results. It is not the best choice for open source databases. PostGreSQL and MySQL scale better on Solaris than they do on Linux, but both RDBMS have trouble scaling over multiple cores. It is likely that the DB2 and Sybase results will be much better on the T2000. The SAMP web performance of the T2000 was good when we cached the PHP pages and we had few accesses to the MySQL database. When PHP pages had to regenerated with every access and the query cache of MySQL was used, performance was pretty bad compared to the x86 competition. The best purpose for the T2000 is a JSP server with SSL authentication.

The Intel Xeon 5160, a.k.a. Woodcrest, will simply be the most powerful server CPU this year (though it's not yet available for purchase of course). As our extrapolated calculations show, even a 2.6 GHz Woodcrest will outperform the current Opteron 285 with a 5 to 55% margin, nothing short of impressive. The new Xeon is however not invincible: the Opteron can still give some serious resistance when running some instruction mixes with lots of rotates, add-carry or load effective address instructions. RSA, AES and other benchmarks clearly show this. Intel will still have to convince some software vendors to port to SSE if it wants Woodcrest to be the completely superior CPU. The advantage in MySQL is also rather small, a result of the relatively high latency of the FB-DIMMs. But we are nitpicking: Intel's newest Xeon has taken back the performance/Watt crown. In one word: Woodcrest rocks!

And what about AMD? The Opteron remains a powerful architecture with a flexible platform. It is quickly becoming the most popular platform for 4 sockets and the upcoming Tulsa CPU is most likely not going to change that. However part of AMD's success has been Intel's Prescott/Nocona failure. In the K6 and Athlon (K7) years, AMD managed to improve the architecture every two years. In 1999 we had the original Athlon, in 2000 we got Thunderbird (integrated L2 cache) and in 2002 we got the Athlon XP. For the few past years, the Opteron architecture has made the move to dual-core and received a better memory controller, but the necessary IPC improvements and cache enlargements have not materialized. "Only the Paranoid survive", remember?

The Intel P-M architecture went from 1.7 GHz Single Core (Banias) in 2003 to 3 GHz (Conroe, Woodcrest) in 2006, while it quadrupled the L2 cache and significantly improved the IPC. At the same time, AMD's K8 series went from 1.8 GHz to 2.8 GHz dual-core, with the same amount of cache, and almost equal IPC. The result is that AMD will not be able to regain the performance crown in the dual and quad-core market until the K8L arrives. The future looks bright in the quad socket market however.

In summary:

Intel Xeon 5160 (Woodcrest)
Advantages:
  • Best server performance across all applications
  • Best Performance/Watt in the high end
  • Absolutely stunning web server performance
  • FB-DIMM enables high RAM capacity and bandwidth (quad channel)
Disadvantages:
  • Needs SSE optimized code for some special case code (RSA, AES)
  • FB-DIMM adds extra latency, cost (small) and power
UltraSparc T1 / Sun T2000
Advantages:
  • Superb SSL performance
  • Excellent Performance/Watt with SSL and Java code
  • Solaris, a robust and well scaling OS
  • Quad channel enables high RAM capacity
Disadvantages:
  • Heavy optimizing is necessary; out of box software performance is low
  • Low single threaded performance; also results in low performance in server software that scales badly
  • Price/Performance compared to Woodcrest
AMD Opteron
Advantages:
  • Well rounded CPU: performs well even with non optimized code; still excellent MySQL server results
  • Excellent Quad socket platform
  • Does not need FB-DIMM for high capacity thanks to NUMA
(DDR2 (socket-F) offers lower latency, less power and less cost )

Disadvantages:
  • Web server performance compared to Woodcrest
  • Power at higher clockspeeds (110 W vs. 80 W)
Performance Analyses
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  • Questar - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    Why? Because AMD got creamed? Reply
  • ashyanbhog - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    and Intel woodcrest may have fantastic performance when compared to earlier xeons,

    but Intel is 3 years late to the party, Opteron was here in 2003!

    also remember, woodcrest is a brand new design from PIII base, manufactured on 65nm process. It is still to make its debut in the market and be available in volumes. Amd its indeed nice to see it being compared to a 3 year old design manufactued on 90nm process.

    AMD still has two product launches to come this year. Move to DDR2 for opterons which should cut some power usage for the total system AND introduction of products manufactured on 65nm at the fag end of the year. Will woodcrest and conroe still retain their performance margins then? if not, for how many months or weeks has Intel grabbed this "performance crown"?
    Reply
  • zsdersw - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    Consider the following:

    - If comparisons could be made between new products from both companies (i.e., Woodcrest versus K8L), they would be made. In the game of leapfrog that we have betweeen AMD and Intel, the comparisons will always be between existing tech and new tech. Will you be pointing out how AMD is "late to the party" when they release their new stuff?

    - Making its debut and availability in volume is an issue for both AMD and Intel. It's not a valid point unless you make it across the board.

    - 65nm will allow clock speeds of Opterons/A64's to increase.. but Conroe/Woodcrest speeds will be increasing as well.
    Reply
  • ashyanbhog - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    not because AMD got creamed!

    a 35 billion$ dollar turnover company (Intel) is bound to make a comeback one day.

    it Anandtech's review setup, its full of holes

    the mysql benchmark on Dual Dual core opterons where they see a 30% drop against single core dual processor numbers in this becnhmark contradicts their own earlier benchmark where they see a 10% performance increase.

    http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.aspx?i=2447&am...">http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.aspx?i=2447&am...

    they also use a substandard MSI motherboard in one of the Opteron systems and fail to mention which system was used for the benchmarks

    mistakes like this, genuine or intentional, are rife throughout the review report

    the whole thing looks like the rig was setup to push the performance diff b/w woodcrest and Opterons to the max,

    why would anybody two months to tweak settings before they publish the review!
    Reply
  • Questar - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    Why? Because AMD got creamed? Reply
  • duploxxx - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    yeah right its a workstation motherboard it uses an nforce controller so maybe they rate it as server board it still is a budget board used for workstations, not a real server board or server chipset like they used on the intel woodcrest.

    check the servers like sun galaxy and hp dl385 they have amd chipsets... big difference.
    the nforce has a shared memory bus...
    Reply
  • zsdersw - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    Yeah, that's one of the 3 Opteron servers. At any rate, the MSI board is a basic server board.. it's still a server board. Reply
  • duploxxx - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    yeah they have done 1 real bench with an hp. all other benches were done with the 2 MSI basic boards...

    still waiting for the wintel benches
    Reply
  • wolaris - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    In corporate environments, no-one with any hardware budget at all runs webserver and database on the same machine, as it hurts both performance and reliability. This affects T1 most, as its low clock speed and simple cores are not meant for database workloads.
    I think that you should run web serving tests using common, high-performance Opteron DB server and separate webservers, as it would be the case in real-world scenarios.
    Reply
  • MrKaz - Thursday, June 08, 2006 - link

    So Power consuming of the new Intel processor on .65nm at already high clock speed of 3.0Ghz is already consuming more than the older AMD Opteron on .90nm 2.8Ghz and DDR.

    When AMD releases socket F will go DDR2 (less power) and better .90nm samples (lower power). So then "new" Intel is already getting beaten...

    And those tests where done with Cool&Quite?

    Also don’t forget this tests where done with Woodcrest 3.0Ghz VS Opteron 2.2Ghz and 2.4Ghz, so when AMD releases the 2.8Ghz and 3.0Ghz with socket F the performance lead of Intel will vanish…

    I think the biggest surprise here is how bad Xeon (P4) was (IS!!), and people keep buying it.
    Reply

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