Market Analysis

We'll wrap up with a quick look at the complete market to see how the most interesting CPUs from Intel and AMD compare. In the first column you will find the market. The second column shows the percentage of server shipments to this market. Some markets generate more revenue for server manufactures like ERP, OLTP, and OLAP; however, we have no recent numbers on this so we'll just keep it in mind. The green zones of the market are the ones where we have a decent benchmark that AMD wins, the blue ones represent the Intel zone, and the red parts are - for now - unknown. Let's first look back at the situation from a few months ago.

AMD "Shanghai" Opteron 2.7GHz vs. Xeon "Harpertown" 3GHz
Market Importance First bench Second bench Benchmarks/remarks
ERP, OLTP 10-14% 21% 5% SAP, Oracle
Reporting, OLAP 10-17% 27%   MySQL
Collaborative 14-18% N/a    
Software Dev. 7% N/a    
e-mail, DC, file/print 32-37% N/a    
Web 10-14% 2%    
HPC 4-6% 28% -3% to 66% LS-DYNA, Fluent
Other 2%? -18% -15% 3DSMax, Cinebench
Virtualization 33-50% 34%   VMmark

The market was almost completely green. AMD's "Shanghai" Opteron was reigning supreme in the HPC and virtualization market. It was clearly in the lead in the OLTP and OLAP market and it had a small advantage in the web market and probably also in the collaborative software market. Since the AMD servers also consumed less power (the Xeons used power hungry FB-DIMMs), you could say that AMD was the "smarter" choice in about 90-98% of the market.

Then a Tsunami called "Nehalem" was launched…

   
Nehalem Performance Overview
Server Software Market Importance Benchmarks used Intel Xeon X5570 vs. Opteron 2384 Intel Xeon X5570 vs. Xeon 5450
ERP, OLTP 10-14% SAP SD 2-tier (Industry Standard benchmark) 81.40% 119%
Oracle Charbench (Free available benchmark) 84.70% 94%
Dell DVD Store (Open Source benchmark tool) 66.20% 78%
Reporting, OLAP 10-17% MS SQL Server (Real world vApus benchmark) 76.50% 107%
Collaborative 14-18% MS Exchange LoadGen (MS own load generator for MS Exchange) Estimated 75-95% 93%
e-mail, DC, file/print 32-37% See MS Exchange    
Software Dev. 7% None    
Web 10-14% MCS eFMS (Real world vApus benchmark) 36.80% 39%
HPC 4-6% LS-DYNA (Industry Standard) 57.00% 101%
<1% LINPACK 15.00% 1%
Other 2%? 3DSMax (Our own bench) 50.30% 24%
Virtualization 50% VMmark (Industry standard) 58.70% 114%

…and nothing that was not called Xeon X55xx was still standing. The Xeon X55xx series simply crushes the competition and reduces the older Xeons to expensive space heaters, with the exception of the rendering and dense matrix HPC market. If you are consolidating your servers, buying a new heavyweight back end database server or mail server, there is only one choice at this moment: the Xeon X55xx series. Period.

AMD after the Sledgehammer blow

Is this the end of the line for the Sunnyvale based company? Is the launch of Bulldozer the day that never comes? Is AMD broken, beat and scarred? Scarred: who would not after this kind of blow. Beaten? For now. But not broken; AMD dies hard. After more than a full year of rather poor execution (Q2 2007 to Q3 2008), AMD is finally shaping up and executing like in the K7-K75 days. The 45nm process technology is very healthy and the speed path problems of Barcelona have been fixed in Shanghai. The result is that only four months after the successful launch of the 2.7GHz Shanghai, we are already seeing a speed bump while the power dissipation stays the same. The 2.9GHz chip was flying towards our lab while I was writing this conclusion; we'll add it as soon as possible.

The 2.9GHz part will not be able to come close to the top Nehalems; however, with the right pricing it might be an attractive alternative to the lower end Xeon 55xx series. Considering that a triple channel board equipped with DDR3 will result in a somewhat more expensive server, AMD might still be able to compete at the lower end. What is more, faster versions of Shanghai strengthen the position of AMD in the small but profitable octal CPU market. For example, 2.9GHz will allow SUN and HP to produce massive monster servers that can support more than 20 tiles and performance scores above 30 in VMmark. Faster versions of Shanghai with vast amounts of memory should also keep the 4-way server market open for AMD.

The hex-core version of Shanghai "Istanbul" is already running VMware ESX 3.5, which indicates that the launch of AMD's hex-core is going to be sooner than expected. AMD will have to surprise us with better than expected power consumption and clock speeds, but if they do, AMD might be in the race again. We doubt AMD will be able to outperform the best Xeon 55xx, but at least it has a chance to stay competitive with the midrange Intel options. Until then, aggressive pricing is the only weapon left.

Pricing Bottom Line
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  • rkchary - Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - link

    We've a customer who is interested in upgrading to Nehalem. He's running on Windows with Oracle database for SAP Enterprise Portals.

    Could you kindly let us know your recommendations please?

    The approximate concurrent users would be around 3000 Portal users.

    Keenly looking forward for your response and if you could state any instances of Nehalem installed in SAP environment for production usage, that would be a great deal of help.

    Regards,
    Chary
    Reply
  • Adun - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    Hello,

    I understand the PHP not-enough-threads explanation as to why Dual X5570 doesn't scale up.

    But, can anyone please explain why when you add another AMD Opteron 2384 the increase is from 42.9 to 63.9, while when you add another Xeon X5570 there isn't such an increase?

    Thank you for the article,

    Adun.
    Reply
  • stimudent - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Was it really too much effort to clean off the processor before posting a picture of it? Or were they trying to show that it was used, tested?
    Reply
  • LizVD - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    Would you perhaps like us to draw a smiley face on it as well? ;-) Reply
  • GazzaF - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    Well done on an excellent review using as many real-world tests as possible. The VMWare test is a real eye opener and shows how the 55xx can match double the number of CPUs from the last generation of Xeons *AND* crucially save $$$$ on licensing from Windows and MS SQL and other per-socket licensed software, plus the power saving which is again a financial saving if you hire rack space in a datacentre.

    I eagerly await your own in-house VM tests. Please consider also testing using Windows 2008 Hyper-V which I think doesn't have the 55xx optimisations that the latest release of VMWare has (and might not have until R2?).

    Thanks for the time you put in to running the endless tests. The results make a brilliant business case for anyone wanting to upgrade their servers. You must have had the chips a good week before Intel officially launched them. :-) I do feel sorry for AMD though. I'm sure they have plenty of motivation to come back with a vengeance like they did a few years ago.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Thanks! Good to hear from another professional. I believe the current Hyper Beta R2 already has some form of support for EPT.

    Our virtualization testing is well under way. I'll give an update soon on our blog page.

    Reply
  • Lifted - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    You mention octal servers from Sun and HP for VM's, but does anybody really use these systems for VM's? I can't imagine why anybody would, since you are paying a serious premium for 8 sockets vs. 2 x 4 socket servers, or even 4 x 2 socket servers. Then the redundancy options are much lower when running only a few 8 socket servers vs many 2 or 4 socket servers when utilizing v-motion, and the expansion options are obviously far less w/ NIC's and HBA's. From what I've seen, most 8 socket systems are for DB's. Reply
  • Veteran - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    What i mentioned after reading the review is there are very few benches on benchmarks a little bit favored by AMD.

    For example, only 1 3DSmax test (so unusefull) at least 2 are needed
    Only 1 virtualization benchmark, which is really a shame....
    Virtualization is becoming so important and you guys only throw in one test?

    Besides that, the review feels a bit biased towards intel, but i will check some other reviews of the xeon 5570
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    Virtualization benchmark come from the official Vmmark scores.

    However there is something real strange going on in the results...

    HP HP ProLiant DL370 G6
    VMware ESX Build #148783 VMmark v1.1
    23.96@16tiles
    View Disclosure 2 sockets
    8 total cores
    16 total threads 03/30/09

    Dell Dell PowerEdge R710
    VMware ESX Build #150817 VMmark v1.1
    23.55@16tiles
    View Disclosure 2 sockets
    8 total cores
    16 total threads 03/30/09

    Inspur Inspur NF5280
    VMware ESX Build #148592 VMmark v1.1
    23.45@17tiles
    View Disclosure 2 sockets
    8 total cores
    16 total threads 03/30/09

    Intel Intel Supermicro 6026-NTR+
    VMware ESX v3.5.0 Update 4 VMmark v1.1
    14.22@10 tiles
    View Disclosure 2 sockets
    8 total cores
    16 total threads 03/30/09

    So lets see all the prebuilds of esx3.5 update 4 get a real high score of 16 tiles almost as much as a 4s shanghai while Vmware performance team themselves stated that we should never see the HT core as a real cpu in Vmware (even with the new code for HT) while yet the benchmark shows a high performance increase, no not like anandtech is stating that this is due to the more available memory and its bandwith, those Vmmarks are not memory starving. Now look at the official Intel benchmark with ESX update 4, it provides 10 tiles and a healthy increase, that from a technical point of view seems much more realistic. All other marketing stuff like switching time etc, all nice, but then again is within the same line of current shanghai.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    What kind of tests are you looking for? The techreport guys have a lot of HPC tests, we are focusing on the business apps.

    "very few benches on benchmarks a little bit favored by AMD."

    That is a really weird statement. First of all, what is a test favored by AMD?

    Secondly, this new kind of testing with OLTP/OLAP testing was introduced in the Shanghai review. And it really showed IMHO that there was a completely wrong perception about harpertown vs Shanghai. Because Shanghai won in the tests that mattered the most to the market. While many tests (inclusive those of Intels) were emphasizing purely CPU intensive stuff like Blackscholes, rendering and HPC tests. But that is a very small percentage of the market, and that created the impression that Intel was on average faster, but that was absolutely not the case.

    "Only 1 virtualization benchmark, which is really a shame..."

    Repeat that again in a few weeks :-). We have just succesfully concluded our testing on Nehalem.

    Personally I am a bit shocked about the "not enough tests" :-). Because any professional knows how hard these OLTP/OLAP tests are to set up and how much time they take. But they might not appeal to the enthousiast, I am not sure.



    Reply

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