"It looks the same on the powerpoint slide, but they are very different". The place is Austin, where an AMD engineer is commenting on the slides describing the Zen and Skylake schematics. In Portland, the Intel representatives could not agree more: "the implementation matters and is completely different". "We have to educate our customers that they can not simply compare AMD's 32 core with our 28 cores".

This morning kicks off a very interesting time in the world of server-grade CPUs. Officially launching today is Intel's latest generation of Xeon processors, based on the "Skylake-SP" architecture. The heart of Intel's new Xeon Scalable Processor family, the "Purley" 100-series processors incorporate all of Intel's latest CPU and network fabric technology, not to mention a very large number of cores.

Meanwhile, a couple of weeks back AMD soft-launched their new EPYC 7000 series processors. Based on the company's Zen architecture and scaled up to server-grade I/O and core counts, EPYC represents an epic achievement for AMD, once again putting them into the running for competitive, high performance server CPUs after nearly half a decade gone. EPYC processors have begun shipping, and just in time for today's Xeon launch, we also have EPYC hardware in the lab to test.

Today's launch is a situation that neither company has been in for quite a while. Intel hasn't had serious competition in years, and AMD has't been able to compete. As a result, both companies are taking the other's actions very seriously.

In fact we could go on for much longer than our quip above in describing the rising tension at the headquarters of AMD and Intel. For the first time in 6 years (!), a credible alternative is available for the newly launched Xeon. Indeed, the new Xeon "Skylake-SP" is launching today, and the yardstick for it is not the previous Xeon (E5 version 4), but rather AMD's spanking new EPYC server CPU. Both CPUs are without a doubt very different: micro architecture, ISA extentions, memory subsystem, node topology... you name it. The end result is that once again we have the thrilling task of finding out how the processors compare and which applications their various trade-offs make sense.

The only similarity is that both server packages are huge. Above you see the two new Xeon packages –with and without an Omni-Path connector – both of which are as big as a keycard. And below you can see how one EPYC CPU fills the hand of AMD's CEO Dr. Lisa Su. 

Both are 64 bit x86 CPUs, but that is where the similarities end. For those of you who have been reading Ian's articles closely, this is no surprise. The consumer-focused Skylake-X is the little brother of the newly launched Xeon "Purley", both of which are cut from the same cloth that is the Skylake-SP family. In a nutshell, the Skylake-SP family introduces the following new features: 

  1. AVX-512 (Many different variants of the ISA extension are available)
  2. A 1 MB (instead of a 256 KB) L2-cache with a non-inclusive L3
  3. A mesh topology to connected the cores and L3-cache chunks together

Meanwhile AMD's latest EPYC Server CPU was launched a few weeks ago:

On the package are four silicon dies, each one containing the same 8-core silicon we saw in the AMD Ryzen processors. Each silicon die has two core complexes, each of four cores, and supports two memory channels, giving a total maximum of 32 cores and 8 memory channels on an EPYC processor. The dies are connected by AMD’s newest interconnect, the Infinity Fabric...

In the next pages, we will be discussing the impact of these architectural choices on server software. 

AMD's EPYC Server CPU
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  • Shankar1962 - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    Yeah 1-1.5 years if we cheat the metrics when comparison
    2-3years if we look at metrics accurately
    A process node shrink is compared by metrics like yield cost scaling density etc
    7nm 10nm etc is just a name
    Reply
  • Panxa - Sunday, July 16, 2017 - link

    "Competition has spoiled the naming convention Intels 14 === competetions 7 or 10"
    The node naming convention used to be the gate length, however that has become irrelevant. Intel 14 nm gate lenghth is about 1.5x and 10 nm about 1.8x. Companies and organizations have developed quite accurate models to asses process density with equations based on process poarameters like CPP and MPP to what they call a "standard node"

    "Intel used to maintain 2 year lead now grew that to 3-4year lead"
    Don't belive intel propaganda. Intel takes the lead in 2014 with their 14nm process with a standard node value of 12.1. Samsung and then TSMC take the lead in 2017 with their 10nm processes having standard node values of 11.2 and 10.3 respectively. Intel will retake the the lead back when they deliver their 10nm process with a standard node value of 8.3. However it will be a short lived lead, TSMC will retake the lead back with their 7nm with a standard node of 7.9 before GLOBALFOUNDRIES takes the lead in 2018 with their 7nm process with a standard node value of 7.8. The gap is gone !!!

    "yet their revenue profits grow year over year"
    Wrong. Intel revenue for the last years remained fairly constant
    2011 grow
    2012 decline
    2013 decline
    2014 grow
    2015 decline
    2016 grow
    All in all from 2011 to 2016 revenue went from 54 billion to 59 billion. If we take into account inflation $54 billion in the year 2011 is worth $58.70 billion today.

    Not to mention that Samsung has overtaken Intel to become the world No.1 semiconductor company, and that a "pure play" foundry like TSMC has surpassed intel in market CAP
    Reply
  • johnp_ - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    The Xeon Bronze Table on Page 7 seems to have an error. It lists the 4112 as having 5.50MB L3, but ark says it has 8.25MB, just like the 3104, so it looks like it has an above-average L3/Core:

    https://ark.intel.com/products/123551
    Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Friday, July 14, 2017 - link

    I've got Intel documents from our briefings that say it has the regular 1.375MB/core allocation, and others saying it has 8.25MB. I'm double checking. Reply
  • johnp_ - Friday, July 21, 2017 - link

    All commercial listings and most reviews I've seen online show the processor with 8.25MB as well.
    Do you have any further information from Intel?
    Reply
  • pepoluan - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    What I'm dying to know: Performance when running as virtualization host. Using Xen, VMware, and Hyper-V. Reply
  • Threska - Saturday, July 22, 2017 - link

    Virtualization itself, and more importantly virtualization security. Reply
  • Sparkyman215 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Typo here: Intel will seven different versions of the chipset, varying in 10G and QAT support, but also varying in TDP: Reply
  • tmbm50 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    One thing to consider when considering value is the Microsoft Server 2016 core tax.....assuming your mission critical apps are still tied to MS ;-)

    Server 2016 now chargers per core with an 8 core socket as the base. The Window license for a 32 core server is NUTS.

    I'm surprised AMD and Intel are not pushing Microsoft on this. For datacenters like ourselves its pushing us to 8 core sku's with more 2U nodes.
    Reply
  • msroadkill612 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Aye, its a fuuny world lad.

    The way the automobile panned out differently in different countries, was laargely die to fuel tax regimes, rather than technology.

    i.e. what is the best way to cheat a bit on the incumbent tax rules of germany/france/uk vs a more laissez faire USA. In UK, u were taxed on horsepower, but u could cheat a bit w/ hi revs & more gears - that sort of thing.
    Reply

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