Final Words

What gave the Athlon MP its performance advantage was AMD’s short-pipeline, high IPC (Instructions Per Clock) architecture. What we saw at the beginning of the Athlon MP vs. Xeon matches back in 2001 was that AMD was trouncing Intel without even breaking a sweat. However, as the Xeon ramped up in clock speed, the performance gap and later the advantage began to shift towards Intel.

With the Opteron, we are seeing an even more devastating advantage for AMD because, this time around, AMD isn’t only relying on a higher IPC core to gain the upper hand. The Opteron’s on-die memory controller is one of the biggest assets that the CPU has in the server environment, and as you can see by the performance results we’ve shown here today, it is an asset that is more valuable than the Xeon’s Hyper-Threading.

The choice today is clear. In 2-way configurations, the Opteron is a much more powerful and capable web server than Intel’s Xeon. But the performance tests are nowhere near over. We’ve been playing around with AMD’s 4-way Opteron 848 machines for months now and are not far away from bringing you the first head-to-head comparison between the Opteron 848 and a 4-way Intel Xeon MP system. AMD has been praising their Opteron architecture for MP scalability, and soon, we’ll be putting their claims to the test.

The true test that remains, however, is a test comparing AMD’s Opteron to Intel’s Itanium 2. Intel was not very receptive to the idea of doing a head-to-head; not out of a fear of losing, but out of a desire not to lend AMD any credibility by showing that the Opteron is indeed a competitor to the Itanium 2. While we do believe that the Itanium 2 in its 128-way configurations is definitely out of the Opteron’s league, in the 2-way and 4-way configurations that we are interested in comparing, the two are absolutely competitors.

Whether Intel is looking to supply us with an Itanium 2 system or not, we will make that comparison. It seems that if these web server results are any early indication, AMD has more than enough credibility with the Opteron to at least step up to bat with the Itanium 2 pitching.

First Round K.O.
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  • Blackbrrd - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    It would be nice to see how the Xeon 2,8GHz DP 533mhz bus (no L3 cache) does against the Opteron 242 set up, as the price for these are about the same. As it is the fastest Intel CPU I can buy from for instance DELL is a 3,2GHz DP with 1MB L3 cache.

    As it is, we will be buying an Opteron server quite soon, based on the outcome of these benchmarks.

    About using a ramdisk: what they have actually tested is how a java webserver performs on the different CPU's. I am working in a small company that uses a java webserver with quite a bit of business logic, not just db inserts updates and selects. This test was about as spot on as you can get.

    Happy to see a site that isn't only doing game pc benchmarking :)
    Reply
  • Ben98SentraSE - Sunday, January 11, 2004 - link

    First off, GREAT article. I check this site several times a day to see when the next review(s) in this area come out! :)

    I am the IS Manager at a medium-sized credit union and we are converting our core processing application from one that runs on an overpriced Unisys A-Series mainframe (good riddance) to one that runs on Oracle and Windows Server 2003. From Anandtech's articles (as well as a few other reviews around the web) I plan on purchasing Opteron servers to run this new system. Today I can run 32-bit and be fast, and tomorrow when Oracle's AMD64 version of 9i comes out of developer release and either when the AMD64 version of Server 2003 comes out or we become comfortable enough with Linux+Oracle, we can be faster. The point of stating this is just another prop to Anandtech's team that their IT Computing reviews are affecting purchasing in the real world at places like where I work that can purchase the best equipment for the job and for the price, regardless of brand. (thankfully!)

    If I could ask for ANY changes to Anandtech.com's reviews, I'd request a larger focus to IT computing. It is hard for me to find sources of information on server-type performance benchmarks in as much depth as Anandtech goes into them.
    Reply
  • Jason Clark - Saturday, December 20, 2003 - link

    There we go :) Less confusing zuni = jason clark. Reply
  • Zuni - Saturday, December 20, 2003 - link

    Trog, sure I did Zuni = Jason Clark I'll change my nic to my real name shortly as it is confusing. I co-wrote the article with anand.

    Visual,trog:

    The database side of this equation is coming, we're just waiting on some cabling for our u320 drive chasis.
    Reply
  • Visual - Saturday, December 20, 2003 - link

    Zuni, thanks for responding, whoever you are ;)

    Seems you'll need to run some DB benches on those cpus, or even DB and webserver at once, for this review to be complete... as for me, I'm curious about how much better the A64 can be in 64bit mode :)

    I'm eager to see your next articles, and I want to say thanks to the whole AnandTech team for the great site you're making :)
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Ugh... I feel like we keep talking past each other. I know and understand that the database was not being used as part of *this* benchmark. My point is that database operations are often a pretty major part of many web servers out there, so, I am curious as to what performance is when you're running the database and web server and everything else together on one system. Consider it a request for a future benchmark, not a fault with the present case.

    As an example, say you have some business that doesn't have a whole lot of money to spend on a server, so they're looking at a Linux box running Apache web server and PHP/MySQL. Certainly, this setup on a single system will not be able to handle a huge amount of traffic, like the Anandtech.com web site. However, I would like to see how much traffic such a system *can* handle. And how does the Athlon 64/FX compare to the Pentium 4 in such an arena? Is disk I/O more of a factor, or does the Athlon architecture actually do better?

    Any chance of getting such a benchmark done? Not necessarily with those specific applications, of course, but something similar? Or, if that's a pointless benchmark, please give reasons... maybe it's already been tested by others? Whatever.

    Thanks for the responses, though. And you never answered: is "Zuni" Anand or Jason, or is it someone else who just worked with those two on the article?
    Reply
  • Zuni - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Essentially using a ramdisk allowed neither cpu to have a limit on its scalability. That's what we were after, and doing that without having expensive raid arrays that are only used when we run a server test. It provided no benefit to either manufacturer it just allowed neither to be limited in any fashion. It worked well, and the numbers show that. I sure hope we can run itanium, we're trying to get ahold of one for you guys.

    Cheers, and everyone have a great holiday!.
    Reply
  • Falco. - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Zuni, thanks for all the replies, and please keep in mind that most of the replies are not from me, but from a friend of mine that knows ALOT more about this then i do :-) Reply
  • Abraxas - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    trogdorjw, in the article it states that the database WAS a bottleneck as you've pointed out, however, it does say "particularly with the opteron." to me this is saying that the database was not a bottleneck with the xeon servers and moreso with the opteron, ie the opteron was only maxed out when using the ramdisk and did not have as much of a performance advantage without it. this would not mean that the opteron had NO advantage over intel with a more normal disk setup. the article also pointed out that even the lower-end opterons (240) would have an advantage over the fastest xeons. this would be even more true under your suggested "real world" setting.

    i can't wait to see the itanic vs opteron comparison :)
    Reply
  • Zuni - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Thanks for the feedback, appreciate it. If you have further suggestions or applications you feel could be tested post them here.

    Cheers
    Reply

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