The Bottom Line

An investor might lose some sleep over the Intel versus AMD war, but an ICT professional cares about return on investment. Does it pay off to invest in Xeon 55xx servers if you want to replace your 3-5 year old dual Xeon 50xx, quad Xeon 70xx or even slower Xeon 51xx based servers? Our power measurements show that the ASUS server (dual Xeon 5570) consumes about 285W to 330W under load, with 24GB of RAM (six DIMMs). To consolidate, you need a bit more as you need at least 48GB (12 DIMMs). We assume 320W on average for simplicity sake. Our 5080-based servers consume 460W to 480W under load, with 16GB of DIMMs. We assume that all our servers have between 8GB and 16GB, and simplify our calculation by assuming they need 450W.

Nehalem Power Comparison
Server Application Intel Xeon X5570 vs. 3 year old server based on 50xx CPUs Power consumption + 50% cooling (before) Power consumption + 50% cooling (After) Power consumption Saving per year Energy Savings per year ($0.10 per KWh)
SAP SD 2-tier (Industry Standard benchmark) 4.87 x faster (5 x 450W) * 1.5 = 3.3 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 24364 KWh $2436
Oracle Charbench (Free available benchmark) 4.44 x faster (4 x 450W) * 1.5 = 2.7 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 19180 KWh $1918
Dell DVD Store (Open Source benchmark tool) 3.96 x faster (4 x 450W) * 1.5 = 2.7 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 19180 KWh $1918
MS SQL Server (Real world vApus benchmark) 7.14 x faster (7 x 450W) * 1.5 = 4.7 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 36676 KWh $3668
MS Exchange LoadGen (MS own load generator for MS Exchange) 5.57 x faster (5 x 450W) * 1.5 = 3.3 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 24364 KWh $2436
MCS eFMS (Real world vApus benchmark) 2.84 x faster (3 x 450W) * 1.5 = 1.9 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 12052 KWh $1200
3DSMax (Our own bench) 3.13 x faster (3 x 450W) * 1.5 = 1.9 KW 320W * 1.5 = 0.48 KW 12052 KWh $1200

Power consumption alone is paying back about half to one third of the investment in the server (which is probably in the $4000-$6000 range). In the case of Oracle, MS SQL server, SAP, and Exchange you may add significant savings in software licensing too. One server is far easier to manage than three to seven servers, so there are lots of cost savings in terms of manpower. Less rack space saves quite a bit of money too… and so on. It is clear that the new generation is well worth the investment even if we didn't make a detailed TCO calculation.

Conclusion

The Nehalem architecture only caused a small ripple in the desktop world, mostly due to high pricing and performance that only shines in high-end applications. However, it has created a giant tsunami in the server world. The Xeon 5570 doubles the performance of its predecessor in applications that matter to more than 80% of the server market. Pulling this off without any process technology or clock speed advantage, without any significant increase in power consumption, is nothing but a historic achievement for the ambitious and talented team of Ronak Singhal.

With native quad-core, fast interconnects between the CPUs, a shared L3 cache that allows faster cache coherency synchronization, and an integrated memory controller, Intel's team followed in the footsteps of AMD's team. However, they were determined to do better in every aspect, especially the memory controller, and they could count on a much more potent integer processing engine. It will be interesting to see how the clearly motivated AMD engineering teams will react. The trend of the past few months is good, but it will take some brilliant ideas and flawless execution to stay in the slipstream of today's Intel.

For the IT professional in these difficult economic times, the new generation of server CPUs are an excellent investment. Especially if you are consolidating on less but more powerful servers, the investment will pay off quickly and generate cost savings after 1-1.5 year or even less.

Market Analysis
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  • rkchary - Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - link

    We've a customer who is interested in upgrading to Nehalem. He's running on Windows with Oracle database for SAP Enterprise Portals.

    Could you kindly let us know your recommendations please?

    The approximate concurrent users would be around 3000 Portal users.

    Keenly looking forward for your response and if you could state any instances of Nehalem installed in SAP environment for production usage, that would be a great deal of help.

    Regards,
    Chary
    Reply
  • Adun - Thursday, April 09, 2009 - link

    Hello,

    I understand the PHP not-enough-threads explanation as to why Dual X5570 doesn't scale up.

    But, can anyone please explain why when you add another AMD Opteron 2384 the increase is from 42.9 to 63.9, while when you add another Xeon X5570 there isn't such an increase?

    Thank you for the article,

    Adun.
    Reply
  • stimudent - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Was it really too much effort to clean off the processor before posting a picture of it? Or were they trying to show that it was used, tested?
    Reply
  • LizVD - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    Would you perhaps like us to draw a smiley face on it as well? ;-) Reply
  • GazzaF - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    Well done on an excellent review using as many real-world tests as possible. The VMWare test is a real eye opener and shows how the 55xx can match double the number of CPUs from the last generation of Xeons *AND* crucially save $$$$ on licensing from Windows and MS SQL and other per-socket licensed software, plus the power saving which is again a financial saving if you hire rack space in a datacentre.

    I eagerly await your own in-house VM tests. Please consider also testing using Windows 2008 Hyper-V which I think doesn't have the 55xx optimisations that the latest release of VMWare has (and might not have until R2?).

    Thanks for the time you put in to running the endless tests. The results make a brilliant business case for anyone wanting to upgrade their servers. You must have had the chips a good week before Intel officially launched them. :-) I do feel sorry for AMD though. I'm sure they have plenty of motivation to come back with a vengeance like they did a few years ago.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Thanks! Good to hear from another professional. I believe the current Hyper Beta R2 already has some form of support for EPT.

    Our virtualization testing is well under way. I'll give an update soon on our blog page.

    Reply
  • Lifted - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    You mention octal servers from Sun and HP for VM's, but does anybody really use these systems for VM's? I can't imagine why anybody would, since you are paying a serious premium for 8 sockets vs. 2 x 4 socket servers, or even 4 x 2 socket servers. Then the redundancy options are much lower when running only a few 8 socket servers vs many 2 or 4 socket servers when utilizing v-motion, and the expansion options are obviously far less w/ NIC's and HBA's. From what I've seen, most 8 socket systems are for DB's. Reply
  • Veteran - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    What i mentioned after reading the review is there are very few benches on benchmarks a little bit favored by AMD.

    For example, only 1 3DSmax test (so unusefull) at least 2 are needed
    Only 1 virtualization benchmark, which is really a shame....
    Virtualization is becoming so important and you guys only throw in one test?

    Besides that, the review feels a bit biased towards intel, but i will check some other reviews of the xeon 5570
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    Virtualization benchmark come from the official Vmmark scores.

    However there is something real strange going on in the results...

    HP HP ProLiant DL370 G6
    VMware ESX Build #148783 VMmark v1.1
    23.96@16tiles
    View Disclosure 2 sockets
    8 total cores
    16 total threads 03/30/09

    Dell Dell PowerEdge R710
    VMware ESX Build #150817 VMmark v1.1
    23.55@16tiles
    View Disclosure 2 sockets
    8 total cores
    16 total threads 03/30/09

    Inspur Inspur NF5280
    VMware ESX Build #148592 VMmark v1.1
    23.45@17tiles
    View Disclosure 2 sockets
    8 total cores
    16 total threads 03/30/09

    Intel Intel Supermicro 6026-NTR+
    VMware ESX v3.5.0 Update 4 VMmark v1.1
    14.22@10 tiles
    View Disclosure 2 sockets
    8 total cores
    16 total threads 03/30/09

    So lets see all the prebuilds of esx3.5 update 4 get a real high score of 16 tiles almost as much as a 4s shanghai while Vmware performance team themselves stated that we should never see the HT core as a real cpu in Vmware (even with the new code for HT) while yet the benchmark shows a high performance increase, no not like anandtech is stating that this is due to the more available memory and its bandwith, those Vmmarks are not memory starving. Now look at the official Intel benchmark with ESX update 4, it provides 10 tiles and a healthy increase, that from a technical point of view seems much more realistic. All other marketing stuff like switching time etc, all nice, but then again is within the same line of current shanghai.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    What kind of tests are you looking for? The techreport guys have a lot of HPC tests, we are focusing on the business apps.

    "very few benches on benchmarks a little bit favored by AMD."

    That is a really weird statement. First of all, what is a test favored by AMD?

    Secondly, this new kind of testing with OLTP/OLAP testing was introduced in the Shanghai review. And it really showed IMHO that there was a completely wrong perception about harpertown vs Shanghai. Because Shanghai won in the tests that mattered the most to the market. While many tests (inclusive those of Intels) were emphasizing purely CPU intensive stuff like Blackscholes, rendering and HPC tests. But that is a very small percentage of the market, and that created the impression that Intel was on average faster, but that was absolutely not the case.

    "Only 1 virtualization benchmark, which is really a shame..."

    Repeat that again in a few weeks :-). We have just succesfully concluded our testing on Nehalem.

    Personally I am a bit shocked about the "not enough tests" :-). Because any professional knows how hard these OLTP/OLAP tests are to set up and how much time they take. But they might not appeal to the enthousiast, I am not sure.



    Reply

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