Introduction

The age of multi-core is upon us, and the game of who has the highest clock speed has turned into who has the most cores (at least for now). Intel released Clovertown in Q4 of 2006, a bit ahead of its originally scheduled 2007 launch date. Obviously, the reason for the early launch was at least partially to ensure they were the first to market with quad core, ahead of rival AMD.

Clovertown is targeted at dual socket servers, typically in a 1-2U form factor. It launched with speeds up to 2.66 GHz, with 3.0 GHz on the horizon. Intel has also recently launched low voltage parts, which are rated at 50W and are clocked at 1.86 and 1.60 GHz.

So, what applications could benefit from eight cores? Today, the obvious choice is virtualization, although database servers, exchange servers, and compute clusters would also be good candidates. Virtualization is the primary target for Clovertown; a rack of ESX servers running on 2U Clovertown boxes would consolidate a significant amount of business applications in a relatively small foot-print.

Last year, at an IBM technical conference, one of their senior technical representatives said the following: "In the coming years, the operating systems we use today will be merely applications running in a single operating system". Although you could say that's true today, it's only the beginning of what is going to be a complete shift in the traditional way we approach and think about "servers". Virtualization is growing at an exponential rate, and the shift to multi-core is only going to accelerate that growth.

Although a significant portion of Clovertown systems will be deployed in virtualized environments, there will be some used in the more traditional single purpose server scenarios. However, there's something to keep in mind if you plan to throw eight cores at your database server or any other server that is I/O intensive. You have now increased your processing power by at least two fold relative to a dual core configuration, and ensuring that your I/O subsystem is capable of keeping up with that extra processing power may be difficult. As you will read later in the article, we ran into significant issues with our test suite with eight cores and our I/O subsystem.

Architecture & Roadmap
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  • Visual - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    the two xeon sockets share a common fsb to memory and io bus, right?
    perhaps you should have included a 1-socket xeon vs 2-socket opteron, just to see how they compare when the xeons aren't as starved for bandwidth... not necessarily a 775 xeon and mobo, i imagine the 771 systems you used now would run just fine with just one of the cpu-s.

    sure, that would turn into a core 2 extreme quadcore vs amd 4x4, or their server equivalents running server benchmarks instead of games but i'm still curious about it :p
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    I believe (could be wrong - it might be a future chipset; can't say I'm up-to-date on the server chipsets these days) that the Xeons have a Dual Independent Bus configuration, so they do get double the bandwidth. The only truly fair way of comparing would be a quad core AMD chip against a quad core Intel chip, but we obviously have to wait on AMD there. It's certainly going to be an interesting matchup later this year.

    Note that in 2008, Intel will use a quad bus topology similar to HyperTransport, at least on paper, so they are certainly aware of the bus bandwidth problems right now. I'm not sure FB-DIMMs are really helping matters either unless you use huge memory footprints. So FB-DIMMs can be good in the real world but bad for benchmarks that don't utilize all the available RAM.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    FB-DIMMs are also un-godly expensive if you need to have 16+ GB in a 2U box. With the Opteron boxes, you tend to have many more DIMM slots, so you can use lower capacity DIMMs. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    I thought my eyes were decieving me, so I had to go back and look at the charts. AMD CPUs are capable or more transactions per second ? Wow. Granted, AMD CPUs also seem to use more power, but they also seem to have a 'better' CPU usage curve.

    I suppose most companies, and enterprises would probably opt for the intel, based on long term power savings, and probably have an Opteron machine or two, where performance was critical.

    It is nice to know, that AMD still does something better than intel. Makes me feel better about buying an Opteron 1210 for my desktop, even if it isnt a socket F Opteron . . .
    Reply
  • Phynaz - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    quote:

    AMD CPUs are capable or more transactions per second ?


    No.

    The tested SYSTEM is capable of more transactions per second.
    Reply
  • defter - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    You mean that four top of the line AMD cpus were outperforming two second fastest Intel's CPUs?

    Clovertown's performance is very impressive, since according to those results two top of the line 2.66GHz Clowertowns would match performance of four 2.8GHz Opteron.
    Reply
  • Viditor - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    quote:

    according to those results two top of the line 2.66GHz Clowertowns would match performance of four 2.8GHz Opteron


    It may be less impressive than you think as 4 dual core 2.4GHz Opterons beat 2 quad core 2.33GHz Clovertowns (by 16%).
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    I'm not sure where you get that comparison. Four dual core 2.8 GHz Opterons beat two 2.33 GHz Clovertown by 16% - in certain situations. Reply
  • Viditor - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    quote:

    I'm not sure where you get that comparison

    If you scroll up a few posts in this thread, you'll see the quote and link...
    "...Two 2.4GHz Opteron 880 processors are as fast as one Xeon 5345, but four Opterons outperform the dual quad core Xeon by 16%..."
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 30, 2007 - link

    Ah, right. I think that's part of what Ross was talking about when he discusses the difficulties in coming up with appropriates tests for these systems. The Forum and Dell Store benchmarks had some serious issues, likely related to optimizations and I/O activity. There are instances where Intel does better, and of course others where they do worse. Reply

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