Benchmark Selection

Our testing was conducted on Ubuntu Server 15.10 (kernel 4.2.0) with gcc compiler version 5.2.1.

The choice of comparing the IBM POWER8 2.92 10-core with the Xeon E5-2699 v4 22-core might seem weird, as the latter is three-times as expensive as the former. However, for this review, where we evaluate single thread/core performance, pricing does not matter. As this is one of the lowest clocked POWER8 CPUs, an Intel Xeon with a high base clock - something that's common for Intel's chips with fewer cores - would make it harder to compare the two microarchitectures. We also wanted an Intel chip that could reach high turbo clockspeeds thanks to a high TDP.

And last but not least we did not have very many Xeon E5 v4 SKUs in the lab...


IBM S812LC (2U)

The IBM S812LC is based up on Tyan's "Habanero" platform. The board inside the IBM server is thus designed by Tyan.

CPU One IBM POWER8 2.92 GHz (up to 3.5 GHz Turbo)
RAM 256 GB (16x16GB) DDR3-1333
Internal Disks 2x Samsung 850Pro 960 GB
Motherboard Tyan SP012
PSU Delta Electronics DSP-1200AB 1200W

Intel's Xeon E5 Server – S2600WT (2U Chassis)

This is the same server that we used in our latest Xeon v4 review.


Xeon E5-2699 v4
Xeon E5-2640 v4 (2.4 GHz, 10 cores, 90 W TDP)

RAM 256 GB (8x32GB) Samsung DDR4-2400
Internal Disks 2x Samsung 850Pro 960 GB
Motherboard Intel Server Board Wildcat Pass
PSU Delta Electronics 750W DPS-750XB A (80+ Platinum)

Hyperthreading, Turbo, C1 and C6 were enabled in the BIOS.

Other Notes

All servers are fed by a standard European 230V (16 Amps max.) power line. The room temperature is monitored and kept at 23°C by our Airwell CRACs in our Sizing Servers Lab.

System Specs Memory Subsystem: Bandwidth


View All Comments

  • abufrejoval - Thursday, August 4, 2016 - link

    I believe "heavily threaded" is somewhat imprecise here: Knights Landing (KNL) is really more about vectorized workloads, or one very loopy and computationally expensive problem, which has been partitioned into lots of chunks, but has high locality. Same code, related data, far more computational throughput than data flowthrough.

    Power8 will do better on such workloads than perhaps Intel, but never as good as a GPU or KNL.

    However it does evidently better per core on highly threaded workloads, where lots of execution threads share the same code but distinct or less related datasets, less scientific and more commercial workloads, more data flowing through.

    Funnily KNL might even do well there, beating its Xeon-D sibling in every benchmark, even in terms of energy efficience.

    But I'm afraid that's because most of the KNL surface area would remain dark on such workload while the invests would burn through any budget.

    KNL is an odd beast designed for a rather specific job and only earn its money there, even if you can run Minecraft or Office on it.
  • Kevin G - Friday, July 22, 2016 - link

    I do think comparison with Xeon Phi is fair since it can run/boot itself now with Knight's Landing. Software parity with the normal x86 ecosystem is now there so it can run off the shelf binaries.

    I am very curious how well such a dense number of cores perform for workloads that don't need high single threaded performance.

    Another interest factor would be memory bandwidth performance as Xeon Phi has plenty. The HMC only further enhances that metric and worth exploring it as both a cache and main memory region for benchmarks.
  • Ratman6161 - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    Will you be addressing virtualization in a future article. I ask this because you are saying the lower cost Power8 systems are intended to compete with the Dell's, HP's, Lenovo etc x86 servers. But these days, a very high percentage of x86 work loads are virutalized either on VMWare or competing products. In 2009 Gartner had it at about 50% and by 2014 it was at 70%. I didn't find a number for '15 or '16 but I expect the percentage would have continued to rise. So if they want to take the place of x86 boxes, they have to be able to do the tasks those boxes do...which tends to largely be to run virtual machines that do the actual workloads.

    And, what about all the x86 boxes running Windows Server or more commonly Windows Server Virtual machines? Windows Server shops aren't likely to ditch windows in favor of Linux solely for the privilege of running on Power8?

    One last thing to consider regarding price. These days we can buy quite robust Intel based server for around $10K. So, supposing I can buy a Power8 system for about the same price? Essentially the hardware has gotten so cheap compared to the licensing and support costs for the software we are running that its a drop in the bucket. If we needed 10 Intel servers or 6 Power 8's to do the same job (assuming the Power8's could run all our VM's), the Power8's could come out lower priced hardware wise, but the difference is, as I said, a drop in the bucket in the overall scheme of things. Performance wise, with the x86 boxes, you just throw more cores at it.
  • aryonoco - Friday, July 22, 2016 - link

    KVM works well on POWER.

    No idea about proprietary things like VMWare. But that would be up to them to port.
  • Ratman6161 - Friday, July 22, 2016 - link

    Near as I can tell, there is a PowerKVM that runs on Power 8 but that doesn't allow you to run Windows Server VM's - seems to support only Linux guests. Reply
  • Zetbo - Saturday, July 23, 2016 - link

    Windows does not support POWER, so there is no point of using POWER if you need Windows! Reply
  • utroz - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    AMD should have used IBM's 22nm SOI to make cpu's so that they would not have been totally dead in the performance and server cpu market for years. GF now owns this process as they "bought" IBM's fabs and tech. I think that 22nm SOI might be better for high speed cpu's than the 14nm LPP FinFet that AMD is using for ZEN at the cost of die size. Reply
  • amagriva - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    How much you payed your cristal ball? Reply
  • spikebike - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    So a single socket Power8 is somewhat faster than the intel chip. But is being compared in a single socket configuration where the intel is designed for a two socket. Unless the power8 is cheaper than an intel dual socket seems most fare to compare both CPU as they are designed to be used. Reply
  • SarahKerrigan - Friday, July 22, 2016 - link

    Power is designed for systems up to 16 sockets (IBM E880.) One socket is just the entry point. Reply

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