SAP S&D profiled

The SAP S&D 2-Tier benchmark has always been one of my favorites. This is probably the most real world benchmark of all server benchmarks done by the vendors. It is a full blown application living on top of a heavy relational database. And don't forget that SAP is one of the most successful software companies out there, the undisputed market leader of Enterprise Resource Planning.

Profiling this benchmark is beyond the capabilities of our lab but Intel shared some of their profiling data when they compared the Xeon E5 with the Xeon 5600. This gives us very interesting insights in how the SAP application behaves.

  SAP S&D SPEC Int 2006
Typical IPC (on Intel Westmere) 0.5 1.1
Typical IPC (on Intel Sandy Bridge) 0.55 1.29
Branches 18% 19%
Mispredictions 0.9% 1.1%
Loads (percentage of instruction mix) 32% 28%
Stores (percentage of instruction mix) 16% 11%

Besides the high level profiling numbers, quite a few details surfaced. For example, increasing the ROB (ReOrder Buffer) from 128 (Westmere) to 168 (Sandy Bridge) reduced the ROB stalls from 10% to almost nothing. Increasing the load buffers from 48 to 64 reduced the load buffers stalls to one fifth of what they were before! This clearly shows that SAP puts quite a bit of pressure on both the ROB and the load units. The application finds ample integer processing power in most modern processors, but it is limited by how fast data can be loaded and how well the Out of Order engine (of which the ROB is the primary buffer) is able to hide the load latency.

Further data confirms this. It is was my understanding that the hardware prefetchers of Sandy Bridge were improved a bit compared to Westmere/Nehalem, but in fact the smarter prefetchers are able to reduce the L2 cache misses by no less than 40%! Now, consider that in most SPEC CPU int 2006 benchmarks only 1 to 10 instructions out of 1000 typically miss the L2 cache. In contrast, in SAP, about 40 out of 1000 instructions miss the small 256KB L2 cache of the Westmere Xeon 5600, which is in the same range as the most memory intensive application in the SPEC CPU2006 int CPU suite (mcf).

SAP is thus an application that misses the L2 cache much more than most applications out there, with the exception of some exotic HPC apps. The better prefetchers inside Sandy Bridge make much better use of the extra bandwidth available and reduce the L2 and L1 misses. Hence, these improved prefetchers are probably one of the main reasons why Sandy Bridge performs better.

Interestingly, the L1 instruction cache misses were halved, and most of the L2 cache miss reduction came from instruction prefetching (less than half the cache misses). Data requests could not be prefetched.

So the end conclusion about SAP is:

  1. The application has very low instruction level parallelism (ILP) and as a result is not taxing the integer units much.
  2. The application has a relatively large but "prefetcheable" instruction footprint, which allows the prefetchers to reduce the instruction related cache misses
  3. The application has a massive and random data footprint, putting great pressure on the load subsystem. As a result the out of order engine has to hide the latency the best it can, and large ROB and load buffers help a lot. The latency of the memory subsystem matters.

Combine this with the fact that the SAP application has a high amount of TLP (Thread Level Parallism) and you'll understand that this is an application ideally suited for Hyper-Threading and Clustered Multi-Threading. Hyper-Threading for example is good for a 30% performance boost. The SAP S&D benchmark is a prime example on how a CPU architecture can be more server or more consumer oriented. The charactheristics of server applications are vastly different from the software that we run on our laptops and desktops.

SAP will hardly be limited by the lower integer execution resources of the individual Bulldozer integer cores. Bulldozer has vastly improved prefetching capabilities and larger OOO buffers. Add to this the 33% higher core count, and we should expect Bulldozer to outperform Magny-Cours chips by at least 33%, as the SAP benchmark emphasizes the strong points of the individual Bulldozer core without stressing the weak points (lower integer throughput). However, we are nowhere near 33% better performance, let alone the 50% higher throughput once promised by AMD. Why?

We have uncovered some additional understanding with the above information, but our job is not done yet.

Reevaluating the Situation SPEC CPU 2006 Integer
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  • Homeles - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    This. Read 3rd party reviews (like AnandTech!) -- several of them -- and draw your conclusions from there. That's pretty much the point of reviews; if marketing teams could provide honest, reliable benchmarks over a wide range of applications, we'd have little need for 3rd party reviews. Reply
  • Mugur - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    Well... they actually did! Reply
  • moravista - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    Great article Johan! I have been reading your articles since the Pentium III / K6-2 days and have really enjoyed them! Thanks for sharing your insight! Keep 'em coming! Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    Great to hear from you. Did you used to participate at the different forums on a different callsign? Reply
  • muy - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    i want a phenom II x4 980+ on 32 nm. this whole idea of "lets put as many crippled dual cores on a die and smack a level 3 cache on top and call it out next cpu" is utter crap stuff that doesn't multi thread well (95 % of all stuff).

    6 core bulldozer i bought to replace my amd x3 450 is slower than the chip i wanted to replace at the same clock speed. now i have a shiny asus rog mb, a x3 450 powering it, and a 6 core bulldozer gathering dust. what a waste of money that was.

    shame i can't find any x4 970+'s anymore and amd is to foolhardy to keep manufacturing their best gaming cpu's, let alone do a shrink on them to 32 nm.

    i can only imagine how much better a phenom 2 x4 9xx, default clocked at 4.2 ghz+ would be than any bulldozer. (and how much cheaper to manufacture considering the die size compared to the die size of bulldozer).

    i just don't understand amd.
    Reply
  • Roland00Address - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    Microcenter has these following processors
    1045t six core for $99
    965 quad core black edition for $99
    960t quad core black edition for $89 (this model is a disabled six core and has a possibility of unlocking to a 6 core. The 960t is a clearance processor so it is while supplies last.
    Reply
  • fic2 - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    Those are all 45 nm. He is wanting a tick - a die shrunk Phenom II.
    Would have to agree with him. If AMD would do a die shrink they would have a killer product - assuming GloFo didn't f*ck it up.
    Reply
  • muy - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    bulldozer doesn't do single threaded, highly branching (cough games cough) stuff well.

    and before you say "some games use multiple cores", i'll say that 1 core running on 100 % and 7 cores at 5 % is not a good use of multi threading.

    (1 * 100) + (7 * 5) = (1 * 100) + (1 * 35) - 1.35 cores used. this means that a DUAL core going at 10 % higher speed than the exampled 8 core would be 10 % faster than the 8 core 'using' it's 8 cores.

    clock speed + ipc are the only things that matter 90% + of the time for games.
    Reply
  • wolfman3k5 - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    People don't buy CPUs based on theoretical performance, ideology or brand loyalty (OK, some fan-boys do). Most of us are not computer engineers, and even if we where, it wouldn't matter, because at the end of the day only the end result would matter: performance, efficiency and price. Just like I didn't buy Intel because it looked good on paper back in the glory days of AMD (cca. 2005). So no matter how deep and involved these articles are, AMD still trails Intel when it comes to performance, and it will do so until their lazy and incompetent CPU engineers will get off their lazy buts and start working. The sole reason why Bulldozer was such a massive fail was because most of the design process was highly automated. So, stop slacking and start working lazy AMD engineers! Reply
  • Homeles - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - link

    Being a "lazy" electrical engineer is practically impossible. The amount of work that has to go into making these processors simply function is quite massive. These guys work hard to get to where they are with their careers and work even harder to keep those careers. The margin of error here is also quite huge... a small flaw can create enormous performance penalties.

    I'd be willing to bet that many, if not most of Bulldozer's shortcomings could be blamed on management. Saying it was "lazy engineers" is callous and ignorant.
    Reply

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