The clock has "ticked" and Intel has released a refresh to the quad-core Xeon line-up, code-named Harpertown. AMD has also finally released their quad-core Opteron, code-named Barcelona. Intel is on what they like to call a tick-tock release cycle of processors. Every "tick" is a refresh of the current architecture, and a "tock" represents a new architecture. AMD doesn't seem to be on any pattern of release cycles, and the Barcelona launch is a bit late and not as well organized as some of their previous product launches.


Harpertown will launch with clock speeds all the way up to 3.16GHz, and will also ship two low voltage parts (2.3GHz and 2.6GHz). The rumor mill speculates that Intel may be able to reach 3.4GHz with the new 45nm process shrink. Barcelona on the other hand is launching at 2.0GHz with speeds down to 1.7GHz. There will be three low voltage Barcelona parts at launch: 1.7GHz, 1.8GHz and 1.9GHz. Frankly, it's more than a bit disappointing that AMD wasn't able to launch at higher clock-speeds; however, they are planning to have higher-clocked parts towards year-end that will only require a few more watts to run.

For quite some time now Intel has been living the high-life in the quad-core arena, even though both AMD and the media criticized them for gluing two dual-core processors together to create their quad-core product line. AMD has lost market share to Intel over the past couple of years, mostly due to the success Intel has had with their current Core architecture. One does wonder if AMD might have sat too long on the Opteron before making head-way into a new design or moving along a bit quicker to quad-core; yes, there was work happening, including an aborted architecture, but when you're fighting the reigning heavyweight such mistakes can be costly. Obviously, AMD has had a rough year with respect to their finances, but hopefully they are on the mend and Barcelona is the beginning of an upswing.

We've already looked at Barcelona in several previous articles, but Harpertown is the new kid on the block this week. That being the case, we'll start with a closer look at Intel's latest addition to their lineup.

What's new with the Harpertown Xeon
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  • Hans Maulwurf - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    Barcelona is about as fast as Harpertown in AS3AP. OK.

    In your article you write:
    "The Scalable Hardware benchmark measures relational database systems. This benchmark is a subset of the AS3AP benchmark and tests the following: ..."

    Now you choose a subset of this test in which Harpertown is much faster. Obviously AS3AP consist of several substest and you could as well choose one where Barcelona is much faster. But whats the use of this? You tested all subtest together with your AS3AP-Test.

    Its the same as testing a game and both CPUs having the same score. Then you choose a subtest(e.g. KI only) where Harpertown is faster and conclude its faster overall.

    So what did I miss here? From what I read Barcelona is as fast in AS3AP as Harpi(and should be faster in some subtest and slower in others) while you conclude:

    "Intel has made some successful changes to the quad-core Xeon that have helped it achieve as much as a 56% lead in performance over the 2.0GHz Barcelona part."

    I dont understand this.
    Reply
  • tshen83 - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    Did anyone here notice the huge metal bar across the FB-DIMM slots? It must be for more FB-Dimm cooling. Without looking at the server first hand, you can't tell how the metal bar is attached to the memory.

    My question is this: where can you buy the bar if you were to build a server class PC yourself? And can someone tell me the mounting mechanism.
    Reply
  • Viditor - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Update: For those that are looking for more details and wondering why certain other chips aren't included, at the time testing was conducted we did not have any of the faster 2.5GHz Barcelona chips (or the slower Harpertowns). That situation has been remedied in terms of AMD's CPUs, and we will have some update articles looking at how the faster Barcelona compares with other processors. Stay tuned...


    One other piece of data is missing from the article, and it's looking like it might be important...
    Kris Kubicki wrote in his blog
    "The 2.0 GHz samples we saw on Monday were of AMD's B1 stepping of Barcelona. But these processors are not the ones we'll see on Newegg's shelves"
    "Production Barcelona samples come with the BA revision designator"
    "One AMD developer, who wished to remain anonymous for non-disclosure purposes, stated, "B1 versus BA should be at least a 5%, if not more, gain in stream, integer and FPU performance.""
    "An AMD engineer, when confronted with the claim, stated that 5% gains when moving from B1 to BA processors "seem conservative.""


    Given that, when you guys do the update, could you let us know which stepping it is that you're using? It appears that it may make a significant difference...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    Remember: 5% performance gains in synthetic benchmarks that stress specific aspects of a CPU don't mean 5% real-world gains. Reply
  • Viditor - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Remember: 5% performance gains in synthetic benchmarks that stress specific aspects of a CPU don't mean 5% real-world gains.

    I agree...but that's exacly why I am looking forward to some real-world benches on the production steppings. We still have no idea how shipping Barcelonas perform yet.
    Reply
  • Viditor - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    Further on that...supposedly the reason for the better performance is fixing some major errata. It's quite possible that the performance boost is across the board and not just in synthetic benches. Reply
  • Schugy - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    You run two benchmarks, you run closed software, you run software that might be optimized for the market leader's processors only, you run software that can't be optimized for the new architecture, you don't benchmark any alpha software that uses rapid virtualization.

    Maybe we have some benchmark numbers but the real performance of Barcelona is still speculation.
    Reply
  • clnee55 - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    AMD is always the underdog. They need superior product to gain market share. That was the case of Athlon vs Netburst. If Barcelona is just competitive, it is not good enough for them to regain the crown. They will stay as underdog. Reply
  • randomname - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    From what I understand, these new (Harpertown) Xeons will not be released until November (12th?). Yet the article makes no mention of it, and by reading it, you would assume you can buy them right now.

    Or have I understood something wrong?
    Reply
  • mutambo - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    Intel systems are power mongers...generate enough heat to replace a room heater.Check out any dual socket systems they are using all kinds of cooling to cool the FB-DIMMs those are the worst part in intel builds. Reply

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