Dual Core Server Performance: AMD's Opteron x75 Series

Our first comparison of AMD's new dual core parts is in the server world - where AMD's new CPUs will be shipping to first.  Of course, no review is complete without a handful of interesting experiences from the lab, and this dual core launch was no exception. 

Server Test Platforms

AMD
Our Dual Core samples arrived a few weeks ago from AMD, well in advance of the launch date of April 21st. At the time of the samples' arrival, we didn't have a stable server board to use for our tests. The Tyan S2891 board that we had on hand was still going through BIOS changes and was not recommended for use with the Dual Core parts. As per AMD's recommendation, we secured a Tyan S2895 Workstation board, which AMD had verified was stable. We were uneasy running server based benchmarks on a workstation board and felt that a server based board recommended by AMD would have been more appropriate. That being said, both the S2891 and S2895 are very similar and are both nForce 4 based chipsets, so performance is virtually identical.


Intel
Intel is expected to release their Dual Core Xeon parts in the first quarter of 2006. So, we requested from Intel their latest Xeon MP system, since we were essentially putting a "4P" system against a Dual Xeon with the current hardware that we have in the lab. Intel, as always, came through with their SR4850HW4 4P system along with 4 Cranford 3.6 GHz 1MB L2 cache processors and 4 Potomac 3.3 GHz 8MB L3 Cache processors.

The SR4850HW4 system uses Intel's new E8500 server chipset "Twin Castle", which most importantly includes a new dual bus architecture that runs at 667MHz, up from 400MHz on older Xeon platforms. As you may have read in our last Quad Xeon article, the Xeon was in dire need of some front side bus bandwidth. Aside from the new bus architecture, the E8500 uses DDR2 based memory, in line with the current DP based Xeon systems.

Intel Front Intel memory Intel Cpu

When we began our testing on the new Intel platform, we quickly learned another "feature" of the SR4850HW4. After unpacking the system and setting it up, we proceeded to power it up with the default configuration with which the system had been shipped. The system wouldn't power up. With barely 2-3 days until the launch of this article, we were (needless to say) "on edge" about getting the benchmarks running. We placed an E-mail into our Intel contact, and within about 5 minutes, an engineer gave us a call. After a few minutes on the phone, the engineer asked, "What do you have the system plugged in to?" We responded, "Well, a wall plug in our lab." He then broke the news: "That system requires 208V to run." Now what? Off to Home Depot we went and grabbed some 12 gauge wire and breaker, and within an hour, we were installing Windows. Another Lab adventure for the books?

Breaker Panel Plug

Server Test Hardware Configuration

AMD
Motherboard: Tyan S2895
Memory: 4GB Kingston PC3200 ECC (2GB for Web benchmarks)
OS: Windows 2003 Enterprise/Windows 2003 Web edition (Web benchmarks)
RAID: LSI Logic 320-2 with 8 Seagate 15K Cheetahs in Raid 0

Intel
Memory: 4GB Infineon DDR2
OS: Windows 2003 Enterprise/Windows 2003 Web edition (Web benchmarks)
RAID: LSI Logic 320-2 with 8 Seagate 15K Cheetahs in Raid 0

The Lineup - Athlon 64 X2 Web Tests - FuseTalk .NET
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  • Opteron - Monday, June 20, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • mikeshoup - Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - link

    I think a better option for testing compiling speed would be to pass a -j argument to make when compiling FireFox, and tell it to run as many parallel operations as the processor can take threads. IE: -j2 for a dual core or ht cpu Reply
  • fritz64 - Thursday, May 05, 2005 - link

    I know what I will be getting after fall this year. Those numbers are impresive! Reply
  • jvarszegi - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    So they're reproducible, but only in secret. And you knew, as usual, about mistakes you were making, but made them anyway to, um, make a valid comparison to something else that no one can verify. Nicely done. Whatever they're paying you, it's not enough. Reply
  • Ross Whitehead - Thursday, April 28, 2005 - link

    Zebo -

    You are correct you can not reproduce them, but we can and have 10's of times over the last year w/ different hardware. I do not believe that because you cannot reproduce them discounts their validity but it does require you have a small amount of trust in us.

    We have detailed the interaction of the application with the database. With this description you should be able to draw conclusions as to whether it matches the profile of your applications and database servers. Keep in mind, when it comes to performance tuning the most command phrase is "it depends". This means that there are so many variables in a test, that unless all are carefully maintained the results will vary greatly. So, even if you could reproduce it I would not recommend a change to your application hardware until it was validated with your own application as the benchmark.

    The owner of the benchmark is not AMD, or Intel, or anyone remotely related to PC hardware.

    I think if you can get beyond the trust factor there is a lot to gain from the benchmarks and our tests.
    Reply
  • Reginhild - Thursday, April 28, 2005 - link

    Wow, the new AMD dual cores blow away the "patched together" Intel dual cores!!

    I can't see why anyone would choose the Intel dually over AMD unless all the AMDs are sold out.

    Intel needs to get off their arse and design a true dual core chip instead of just slapping two "unconnected" processors on one chip. The fact that the processors have to communicate with each other by going outside the chip is what killed Intel in all the benchmarks.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, April 28, 2005 - link

    Ross,

    How can I reproduce them when they are not available to me?

    From your article:
    " We cannot reveal the identity of the Corporation that provided us with the application because of non-disclosure agreements in place. As a result, we will not go into specifics of the application, but rather provide an overview of its database interaction so that you can grasp the profile of this application, and understand the results of the tests better (and how they relate to your database environment)."

    Then don't include them. Benchmarking tools to which no one else has access is not scientific because it can't be reproduced so that anyone with a similar setup can verify the results.

    I don't even know what they do. How are they imporatant to me? How will this translate to anything real world I need to do? How can I trust the mysterious company? Could be AMD for all I know.
    Reply
  • MPE - Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - link

    #134

    How can it be the best for the buck ? Unless you are seeing benchmarks from Anand that says so how could come to the conclusion?
    At some tests the 3800+ was the worse performer while the X2 and PD where the best.

    You are extrapolating logic from air.
    Reply
  • Ross Whitehead - Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - link

    #131

    "no mystery unreproducable benchmarks like Anand's database stuff."

    It is not clear what you mean by this statement. The database benchmarks are 100% reproducable and are real life apps not synthetic or academic calcs.
    Reply
  • nserra - Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - link

    You are discussion price and it's not correct since intel goes from 2800 to 3200 and amd goes from 3500+ into 4000+ (i'm ignoring amd new model numbers, still based on older).

    I complete disagree the AMD model numbers, the should be = to single core, the should just had the X2.

    The TRUE X2 will be more performer than opteron, by 2% to 5%.
    Reply

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