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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  • Veteran - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    I didn't mean to offend you, because i can imagine how much time it takes to test hardware properly. And i personally think that OLTP/OLAP testing is very innovative and needed. Because otherwise people would have no idea what to buy for servers. You cannot let you server purchase be influenced with meaningless (for servers) simple benchmarks like 3D 2006/Vantage/FPS test etc.
    You guys always are doing a great a job at testing any piece of hardware, but it is just feeling to much biased towards Intel. For example, at the last page of this review you get a link to Intel resource Center (in the same place as the next button). If you have things like that, you are not (trying to be) objective IMO.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    Thank you for clarifying in a very constructive way.

    "the last page of this review you get a link to Intel resource Center"

    I can't say I am happy with that link as it creates the wrong impression. But the deal is: editors don't involve in ad management, ad sales people don't get involved when it comes to content.

    So all I can say is to judge our content, not our ads. And like I said, it didn't stop us from claiming that Shanghai was by far the best server CPU a few months ago. And that conclusion was not on many sites.
    Reply
  • Veteran - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    Thanks for clarrifying this matter.

    But ad sales people should know this creates the wrong impression. A review site (for me at least) is all about objectivity and credibility. When you place a link to Intel's Resource Center at the end of every review, it feels weird. People on forums already call Anandtech, Inteltech. And i don't think this is what you guys want.

    I always liked Anandtech since when I was a kid, and I still do. You guys always have one of the most in-depth reviews (especially on the very technical side) and I like that. But you guys are gaining some very negative publicity on the net.
    Reply
  • BaronMatrix - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    Unfortunately, I don't buy from or recommend criminals. Reply
  • carniver - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    AMDZone is the biggest joke on the internet. I just went there to see how the zealots like abinstein are still doing their damage control; just like before he went on rambling how the Penryn is still weak against Shanghai, and the old and tired excuses like how if people all bought AMD they can drop in upgrades etc etc. ZootyGray...he's the biggest joke on AMDZone. None of them had the mental capacity to accept AMD has been DEFEATED, which is disappointing but funny to say the least Reply
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    It's not just AMDZone, you are just the opposite. Its like in Woodcrest and conroe times, it's not because the high-end cpu is the best of all that the rest of the available cpu's in the line is by default better. It's all about price performance ratio. Like many who were buying the low-end and think they had bought the better system, well wrong bet.

    As mentioned before, why not test the mid range that is where the sales will be. Time to test 5520-5530 against 2380-82 after all those have the same price.
    Reply
  • carniver - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    Your argument is valid, however, it just so happens that for low end 1S systems the Penryns are doing just fine against the Shanghais, for higher end 2S systems they used to be limited by memory bandwidth and AMD pulls ahead. No more is this the case, Intel now beats AMD in their own territory. Reply
  • CHADBOGA - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    You probably also can't afford to buy a computer, so I doubt that Intel will be too concerned with your AMDZone insanity. LOL!!!! Reply
  • smilingcrow - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    Those grapes you are chewing on sure sound sour to me. Try listening to a few tracks by The Fun Loving Criminals to help take away the bad taste. Reply
  • cjcoats - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    There's more to HPC applications than you indicate: environmental modeling apps, particularly, tend to be dominated by memory access patterns rather than by I/O or pure computation. Give me a ring if you'd like some help with that -- I'm local for you, in fact... Reply

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