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Conclusions

To help summarize the current situation in the server CPU market, we have drawn up a comparison table of the performance we have measured so far. We'll compare the new Interlagos Opteron 6276 against the outgoing Opteron 6174 as well as teh Xeon X5650.

  Opteron 6276 vs.
Opteron 6174
Opteron 6276 vs.
Xeon X5650
ESXi + Linux -1% -2%
ESXi + Windows = +3%
Cinebench +2% +9%
3DS Max 2012 (iRay) -9% to + 4% -10% to +3%
Maxwell Render +4% +6%
Blender -4% -24%
Encryption/Decryption AES +265% / +275% +2% / +7%
Encryption/Decryption Twofish/Serpent +25% / +25% 31% / 46%
Compression/decompression +10% / +10% -33%/ +22%

Let us first discuss the virtualization scene, the most important market. Unfortunately, with the current power management in ESXi, we are not satisfied with the Performance/watt ratio of the Opteron 6276. The Xeon needs up to 25% less energy and performs slightly better. So if performance/watt is your first priority, we think the current Xeons are your best option.

The Opteron 6276 offers a better performance per dollar ratio. It delivers the performance of $1000 Xeon (X5650) at $800. Add to this that the G34 based servers are typically less expensive than their Intel LGA 1366 counterparts and the price bonus for the new Opteron grows. If performance/dollar is your first priority, we think the Opteron 6276 is an attractive alternative.

And then there is Windows Server 2008 R2. Typically we found that under heavy load (benchmarking at 85-100% CPU load) the power consumption was between 3% (integer) to 7% (FP) higher on the Opteron 6276 than on the Xeons and Opteron 6100, a lot better than under ESXi. Add to this the fact that the new Opteron energy usage at low load is excellent and you understand that we feel that there is no reason to go for the Opteron 6100 anymore. Again, AMD still understands that it should price its CPUs more attractive than the competition, so from the price/performance/watt point of view, the Opteron 6276 is a good cost effective alternative to the Xeon...on the condition that you enable the "high performance" policy and that AMD keeps the price delta the same in the coming months.

That is the good news. We cannot help but to feel a bit disappointed too. AMD promised us (in 2009/2010) that the Opteron 6200 would be significantly faster than the 6100: "unprecedented server performance gains". That is somewhat the case if you recompile your software with the latest and greatest optimized compiler as AMD's own SPEC CINT (+19%), CFP 2006 (+11%) and Linpack benchmarks (+32%) show.

One of the real advantages of a new processor architecture (prime examples where the K7 and K8) is if it performs well in older software too, without requiring a recompile. For some people of the HPC world, recompiling is acceptable and common, but for everybody else (that is probably >95% of the market!), it's best if existing binaries run faster. Administrators generally are not going to upgrade and recompile their software just to make better use of a new server CPU. Hopefully AMD's engineers have been looking into improving the legacy software performance of their latest chip the last few months, because it could use some help.

On the other side of the coin, it is clear that some of the excellent features of the new Opteron are not leveraged by the current software base. The deeper sleep and more advanced core gating is not working to its full potential, and the current operating systems frequently don't appear to know how to get the best from Turbo Core. The clock can be boosted by 39% when half of the cores are active, but an 18% boost was the best we saw (in a single-threaded app!). Simply turning the right knobs gave some tangible power savings (see ESXi) and some impressive performance improvements (see Windows Server 2008).

In short, we're going to need to do some additional testing and take this server out for another test drive, and we will. Stay tuned for a follow-up article as we investigate other options for improving performance.

Other Tests: TrueCrypt and 7-Zip
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106 Comments

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  • geoxx - Friday, December 09, 2011 - link

    Sorry but neotiger is totally right, choice of benchmark sucks. We are not helped *at all* by your review.
    What company 32-core server is being used for 3D rendering, cinebench, file compression, truecrypt encryption??
    You benchmarked it like it was a CPU of the nineties for a home enthusiast.

    You are probably right pointing us to http://www.anandtech.com/show/2694 but your benchmarks don't reflect that AT ALL. Where are file compression, encryption, 3D rendering and cinebench in that chart?

    Even performances per watt is not very meaningful because when one purchases a 2-socket or 4-socket server, electricity cost is not an issue. Companies want to simplify deployment with such a system, they want this computer to run as fast as a cluster, in order not to be bound to cluster databases which are a PAIN. So people want to see scalability of applications to full core count on this kind of system, not so much performances per watt.

    Virtualization is the ONLY senseful benchmark you included.

    TPC as suggested is a totally right benchmark, that's the backend and bottleneck for most of the things you see in your charts at http://www.anandtech.com/show/2694 , and objection on storage is nonsense, just fit a database in ramdisk (don't tell me you need a database larger than 64GB for a benchmark), export as block device, then run the test. And/or use one PCI-e based SSD which you certainly have.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2694 mentions software development: how much effort does it require to set up a linux kernel compile benchmark?

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2694 mentions HPC: can you set up a couple of bioinformatics benchmarks such as BLAST (integer computation, memory compare), GROMACS (matrix FPU computations) and Fluent? Please note that none of your tests includes memory compares and FPU which are VERY IMPORTANT in HPC. Gromacs and fluent would cover the hole. Bioinformatics is THE hpc of nowdays and there are very few websites, if any, which help with the choice of CPUs for HPC computing.

    For email servers (37%!) and web servers (14%) also I am sure you can find some benchmarks.
    Reply
  • Iketh - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure how the discovery of cores running in their power-saving state for far too long is anything new. My 2600k refuses to ramp up clocks while previewing video in a video editor even though a core is pegged at 100%. If I intervene and force it to 3.4ghz, preview framerate jumps from 8 fps to 16fps.

    This has been happening for YEARS! My old quad Phenom 2.2ghz did the exact same thing!

    It's extremely annoying and pisses me off I can't benefit from the power savings, let alone turbo.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Sounds like you're running linux or some other strange OS, then. Or you may need a bios update. Generally Intel has its power management quit under control. In the AMD camp physical power state switches often take longer than the impatient OS expects, and thus average frequency is hurt. This was pretty bad for Phenom 1.

    MrS
    Reply
  • Iketh - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    win7 home premium x64 and the phenom was with xp 32bit... i haven't found another scenario that causes this, only streaming video that's rendered on-the-fly Reply
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    You have a 2600k and aren't running it at 4+ GHz? Reply
  • Iketh - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    4.16 @ 1.32v when encoding, 3.02 @ 1.03v for gaming/internet Reply
  • haplo602 - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    you do know that Linux did not have any problems with Phenom I power management unlike Windows ? Same is not with BD. Linux benchmarks look quite different from Windows and the gap is not that dramatic there. Reply
  • BrianTho2010 - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    This whole review, the only thought I have is that there are no sandy bridge chips in it. When SB based Xeon chips come out I bet that Interlagos will be completely dominated. Reply
  • Beenthere - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Not really. SB chips don't fit in AMD sockets. AMD's installed customer base like the significant performance increase and power savings by just plugging in a new Opteron 6200/4200. Reply
  • C300fans - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    It will. 2x6174 (24 cores) perform quite similar to 2x6274(32 cores). WTF Reply

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