The Bottom Line

An investor might lose some sleep over the Intel versus AMD war, but an ICT professional cares about return on investment. Does it pay off to invest in Xeon 55xx servers if you want to replace your 3-5 year old dual Xeon 50xx, quad Xeon 70xx or even slower Xeon 51xx based servers? Our power measurements show that the ASUS server (dual Xeon 5570) consumes about 285W to 330W under load, with 24GB of RAM (six DIMMs). To consolidate, you need a bit more as you need at least 48GB (12 DIMMs). We assume 320W on average for simplicity sake. Our 5080-based servers consume 460W to 480W under load, with 16GB of DIMMs. We assume that all our servers have between 8GB and 16GB, and simplify our calculation by assuming they need 450W.

Nehalem Power Comparison
Server Application Intel Xeon X5570 vs. 3 year old server based on 50xx CPUs Power consumption + 50% cooling (before) Power consumption + 50% cooling (After) Power consumption Saving per year Energy Savings per year ($0.10 per KWh)
SAP SD 2-tier (Industry Standard benchmark) 4.87 x faster (5 x 450W) * 1.5 = 3.3 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 24364 KWh $2436
Oracle Charbench (Free available benchmark) 4.44 x faster (4 x 450W) * 1.5 = 2.7 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 19180 KWh $1918
Dell DVD Store (Open Source benchmark tool) 3.96 x faster (4 x 450W) * 1.5 = 2.7 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 19180 KWh $1918
MS SQL Server (Real world vApus benchmark) 7.14 x faster (7 x 450W) * 1.5 = 4.7 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 36676 KWh $3668
MS Exchange LoadGen (MS own load generator for MS Exchange) 5.57 x faster (5 x 450W) * 1.5 = 3.3 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 24364 KWh $2436
MCS eFMS (Real world vApus benchmark) 2.84 x faster (3 x 450W) * 1.5 = 1.9 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 12052 KWh $1200
3DSMax (Our own bench) 3.13 x faster (3 x 450W) * 1.5 = 1.9 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 12052 KWh $1200

Power consumption alone is paying back about half to one third of the investment in the server (which is probably in the $4000-$6000 range). In the case of Oracle, MS SQL server, SAP, and Exchange you may add significant savings in software licensing too. One server is far easier to manage than three to seven servers, so there are lots of cost savings in terms of manpower. Less rack space saves quite a bit of money too… and so on. It is clear that the new generation is well worth the investment even if we didn't make a detailed TCO calculation.

Conclusion

The Nehalem architecture only caused a small ripple in the desktop world, mostly due to high pricing and performance that only shines in high-end applications. However, it has created a giant tsunami in the server world. The Xeon 5570 doubles the performance of its predecessor in applications that matter to more than 80% of the server market. Pulling this off without any process technology or clock speed advantage, without any significant increase in power consumption, is nothing but a historic achievement for the ambitious and talented team of Ronak Singhal.

With native quad-core, fast interconnects between the CPUs, a shared L3 cache that allows faster cache coherency synchronization, and an integrated memory controller, Intel's team followed in the footsteps of AMD's team. However, they were determined to do better in every aspect, especially the memory controller, and they could count on a much more potent integer processing engine. It will be interesting to see how the clearly motivated AMD engineering teams will react. The trend of the past few months is good, but it will take some brilliant ideas and flawless execution to stay in the slipstream of today's Intel.

For the IT professional in these difficult economic times, the new generation of server CPUs are an excellent investment. Especially if you are consolidating on less but more powerful servers, the investment will pay off quickly and generate cost savings after 1-1.5 year or even less.

Market Analysis
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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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