Introducing AMD's Opteron 6200 Series

When virtualization started to get popular (ca. 2005-2007), there was a fear that this might slow the server market down. Now several years later, the server market has rarely disappointed and continues to grow. For example, IDC reported a 12% increase in revenue when comparing Q1 2010 and Q1 2011. The server market in total accounted for $12 billion revenue and almost two million shipments in Q1 2011, and while the best desktop CPUs generally sell for $300, server chips typically start at $500 and can reach prices of over $3000. With the high-end desktop market shrinking to become a niche for hardcore enthusiasts--helped by the fact that moderate systems from several years back continue to run most tasks well--the enterprise market is very attractive.

Unfortunately for AMD, their share of the lucrative server market has fallen to a very low percentage (4.9%) according IDC's report early this year (some report 6-7%). It is time for something new and better from AMD, and it seems that the Bulldozer architecture is AMD's most server-centric CPU architecture ever. We quote Chuck Moore, Chief Architect AMD:

By having the shared architecture, reducing the size and sharing things that aren’t commonly used in their peak capacity in server workloads, “Bulldozer” is actually very well aligned with server workloads now and on into the future. In fact, a great deal of the trade-offs in Bulldozer were made on behalf of servers, and not just one type of workload, but a diversity of workloads.

This alginment with server workloads can also be found in the specs:

  Opteron 6200
"Interlagos"
Opteron 6100
"Magny-cours"
Xeon 5600
"Westmere"
Cores (Modules)/Threads 8/16 12/12 6/12
L1 Instructions 8x 64 KB 2-way 12x 64 KB 2-way 6x 32 KB 4-way
L1 Data 16x 16 KB 4-way 12x 64 KB 2-way 6x 32 KB 4-way
L2 Cache 4x 2MB 12x 0.5MB 6x 256 KB
L3 Cache 2x 8MB 2x 6MB 12MB
Memory Bandwidth 51.2GB/s 42.6GB/s 32GB/s
IMC Clock Speed 2GHz 1.8GHz 2GHz
Interconnect 4x HT 3.1 (6.4 GT/s) 4x HT 3.1 (6.4 GT/s) 2x QPI (4.8-6.4 GT/s)

The new Opteron has loads of cache, faster access to memory and more threads than ever. Of course, a good product is more than a well designed microarchitecture with impressive specs on paper. The actual SKUs have to be attractively priced, reach decent clock speeds, and above all offer a good performance/watt ratio. Let us take a look at AMD's newest Opterons and how they are positioned versus Intel's competing Xeons.

AMD vs. Intel 2-socket SKU Comparison
Xeon Cores/
Threads
TDP Clock
(GHz)
Price Opteron Modules/
Threads
TDP Clock
(GHz)
Price
High Performance High Performance
X5690 6/12 130W 3.46/3.6/3.73 $1663          
X5675 6/12 95W 3.06/3.33/3.46 $1440          
X5660 6/12 95W 2.8/3.06/3.2 $1219          
X5650 6/12 95W 2.66/2.93/3.06 $996 6282 SE 8/16 140W 2.6/3.0/3.3 $1019
Midrange Midrange
E5649 6/12 80W 2.53/2.66/2.8 $774 6276 8/16 115W 2.3/2.6/3.2 $788
E5640 4/8 80W 2.66/2.8/2.93 $774          
          6274 8/16 115W 2.2/2.5/3.1 $639
E5645 6/12 80W 2.4/2.53/2.66 $551 6272 8/16 115W 2.0/2.4/3.0 $523
          6238 6/12 115W 2.6/2.9/3.2 $455
E5620 4/8 80W 2.4/2.53/2.66 $387 6234 6/12 115W 2.4/2.7/3.0 $377
High clock / budget High clock / budget
X5647 4/8 130W 2.93/3.06/3.2 $774          
E5630 4/8 80W 2.53/2.66/2.8 $551 6220 4/8 115W 3.0/3.3/3.6 $455
E5607 4/4 80W 2.26 $276 6212 4/8 115W 2.6/2.9/3.2 $266
Power Optimized Power Optimized
L5640 6/12 60W 2.26/2.4/2.66 $996          
L5630 4/8 40W 2.13/2.26/2.4 $551 6262HE 8/16 85W 1.6/2.1/2.9 $523

The specifications (16 threads, 32MB of cache) and AMD's promises that Interlagos would outperform Magny-cours by a large margin created the impression that the Interlagos Opteron would give the current top Xeons a hard time. However, the newest Opteron cannot reach higher clock speeds than the current Opteron (6276 at 2.3GHz), and AMD positions the Opteron 6276 2.3GHz as an alternative to the Xeon E5649 at 2.53GHz. As the latter has a lower TDP, it is clear that the newest Opteron has to outperform this Xeon by a decent margin. In fact most server buyers expect a price/performance bonus from AMD, so the Opteron 6276 needs to perform roughly at the level of the X5650 to gain the interest of IT customers.

Judging from the current positioning, the high-end is a lost cause for now. First, AMD needs a 140W TDP chip to compete with the slower parts of Intel's high-end armada. Second, Sandy Bridge EP is coming out in the next quarter--we've already seen the desktop Sandy Bridge-E launch, and adding two more cores (four more threads) for the server version will only increase the performance potential. The Sandy Bridge cores have proven to be faster than Westmere cores, and the new Xeon E5 will have eight of them. Clock speeds will be a bit lower (2.0-2.5GHz), but we can safely assume that the new Xeon E5 will outperform its older brother by a noticeable margin and make it even harder for the new Opteron to compete in the higher end of the 2P market.

At the low-end, we see some interesting offerings from AMD. Our impression is that the 6212 at 2.6-2.9GHz is very likely to offer a better performance per dollar ratio than the low-end Xeons E560x that lack Hyper-Threading and turbo support.

Okay, we've done enough analyzing of paper specs; let's get to the hardware and the benchmarks. Before we do that, we'll elaborate a bit on what a server centric architecture should look like. What makes server applications tick?

What Makes Server Applications Different?
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  • neotiger - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Most of the benchmarks are for rendering: Cinebench, 3DSMax, Maxwell, Blender, etc.

    How many enterprises actually do 3D rendering?

    Far more common enterprise applications would be RDBMS, data warehouse, OLTP, JVM, app servers, etc.

    You touched on some of that in just one virtualization benchmark, vApus. That doesn't make sense either - how many enterprises you know run database servers on VM?

    A far more useful review would be running separate benchmarks for OLTP, OLAP, RDBMS, JVM, etc. tppc, tpce, tpch would be a good place to start
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    I definitely would like to stay close to what people actually use.
    In fact we did that:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2694

    But the exploding core counts made it as good as impossible.

    1. For example, a website that scales to 32 cores easily: most people will be amazed how many websites have trouble scaling beyond 8 cores.

    2. Getting an OLTP database to scale to 32 cores is nothing to sneeze at. If your database is small and you run most of it in memory, chances are that you'll get a lot of locks and that it won't scale anyway. If not, you'll need several parallel RAID cards which have a lot of SSDs. We might pull that one off (the SSDs), but placing several RAID cards inside a server is most of the time not possible. once you solve the storage bottleneck, other ones will show up again. Or you need an expensive SAN... which we don't have.

    We had an OLAP/ OLTP and Java benchmarks. And they were excellent benchmarks, but between 8 and 16 cores, they started to show decreasing CPU utilization despite using SSDs, tweaking etc.

    Now puts yourself in our place. We can either spend weeks/months getting a database/website to scale (and we are not even sure it will make a real repeatable benchmark) or we can build upon our virtualization knowledge knowing that most people can't make good use of a native 32 core database anyway (or are bottlenecked by I/O and don't care anyway), and buy their servers to virtualize.

    At a certain point, we can not justify to invest loads of time in a benchmark that only interest a few people. Unless you want to pay those people :-). Noticed that some of the publications out there use geekbench (!) to evaluate a server? Noticed how many publication run virtualization benchmarks?

    "That doesn't make sense either - how many enterprises you know run database servers on VM?"

    Lots of people. Actually besides a few massive Oracle OLTP databases, there is no reason any more not to virtualized your databases. SQL server and MySQL are virtualized a lot. Just googling you can find plenty of reports of MySQL and SQL server on top of ESX 4. Since vSphere 4 this has been common practice.

    "etc. tppc, tpce, tpch would be a good place to start "

    No not really. None of the professional server buyers I know cares about TPC benches. The only people that mentione them are the marketing people and hardware enthusiast that like to discuss high-end hardware.

    So you prefer software that requires 300.000$ of storage hardware over a very realistic virtualization benchmarks which are benchmarked with real logs of real people?

    Your "poor benchmark choice" title is disappoing after all the time that my fine colleagues and me have spend on getting a nice website + groupware virtualization benchmark running which is stresstested by vApus which uses real logs of real people. IMHO, the latter is much more interesting than some inflated TPC benchmarks with storage hardware that only the fortune 500 can afford. Just HMO.
    Reply
  • neotiger - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    While scaling to 32 cores can be problematic for some software, it's worth keeping in mind that the vast majority of dual-socket servers don't have 32 cores.

    In fact, a dual-CPU Intel server only has *at most* 12 cores, that's a far cry from 32-cores. Postgresql & MySQL has no problem at all to scale to 12 cores and beyond.

    Now if AMD decided to make a CPU with crappy per-core performance but has so many cores that most software can't take full advantage of, that's their own fault. It's not like they haven't been warned. Sun tried and failed with the same approach with T2. If AMD is hellbent on making the same mistake, they only have themselves to blame.

    My post title is a bit harsh. But it is disappointing to see a review that devotes FOUR separate benchmarks to 3D rendering, an application that the vast majority of enterprises have no use for at all. Meanwhile, the workhorse applications for most enterprises, OLTP, OLAP, and such, received far too little attention.
    Reply
  • tiro_uspsss - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    "In fact, a dual-CPU Intel server only has *at most* 12 cores..."

    Incorrect. There is s1567. This allows 2-8 CPUs, with a max. of 8C/16T per CPU......... which I'm wondering why Anandtech failed to include in this review?

    s1567 CPUs also have quad channel memory...

    I really wish s1567 was included in this review..
    Reply
  • Photubias - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Intel's S1567?
    You mean the E7-8830 CPU from the E7-8800 series which has prices *starting* at $2280?

    -> http://ark.intel.com/products/series/53672
    Reply
  • bruce24 - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    "You mean the E7-8830 CPU from the E7-8800 series which has prices *starting* at $2280?"

    I'm not sure what he meant, but there are E7-2xxx processors for dual socket servers, which are priced much lower than the E7-8xxx processors which are for 8+ socket servers.
    Reply
  • Photubias - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    You mean the E7-28xx series
    http://ark.intel.com/products/series/53670 ?

    They are priced a bit lower, is there a comparison you suggest?
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    I have trouble understanding why people think a review should include research into every other similar product that might be used for the same purpose.

    I mean, I can understand ASKING for a review of another specific product, particularly if you've actually done some research on your own and haven't found the information you want, but to imply a review isn't complete because it didn't mention or test another piece of hardware is a bit - unrealistic.

    ;)
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Sabresiberian, a very sincere thank you for being reasonable. :-)

    Frankly I can't imagine a situation where someone would have trouble to decide between a Westmere-EX and an AMD CPU. Most people checking out the Westmere-EX go for the RAS features (dual) or RAS + ultimate high thread performance (Quad). In all other cases dual Xeon EP or Opterons make more sense power and pricewise.
    Reply
  • JustTheFacts - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Really? Is it that much trouble to understand that people want to see the latest AMD cpu's compared to the most current generation of Intel hardware? Especially when the previous Intel processor review posted on this site reported on Westmere-EX performance? I have trouble understanding why people wouldn't expect it. Reply

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