Closing Thoughts

First of all, we have to emphasize that we were only able to spend about a week on the AMD server, and about two weeks on the Intel system. With the complexity of both server hardware and especially server software, that is very little time. There is still a lot to test and tune, but the general picture is clear.

We can continue to talk about Intel's excellent mesh topology and AMD strong new Zen architecture, but at the end of the day, the "how" will not matter to infrastructure professionals. Depending on your situation, performance, performance-per-watt, and/or performance-per-dollar are what matters.

The current Intel pricing draws the first line. If performance-per-dollar matters to you, AMD's EPYC pricing is very competitive for a wide range of software applications. With the exception of database software and vectorizable HPC code, AMD's EPYC 7601 ($4200) offers slightly less or slightly better performance than Intel's Xeon 8176 ($8000+). However the real competitor is probably the Xeon 8160, which has 4 (-14%) fewer cores and slightly lower turbo clocks (-100 or -200 MHz). We expect that this CPU will likely offer 15% lower performance, and yet it still costs about $500 more ($4700) than the best EPYC. Of course, everything will depend on the final server system price, but it looks like AMD's new EPYC will put some serious performance-per-dollar pressure on the Intel line.

The Intel chip is indeed able to scale up in 8 sockets systems, but frankly that market is shrinking fast, and dual socket buyers could not care less.

Meanwhile, although we have yet to test it, AMD's single socket offering looks even more attractive. We estimate that a single EPYC 7551P would indeed outperform many of the dual Silver Xeon solutions. Overall the single-socket EPYC gives you about 8 cores more at similar clockspeeds than the 2P Intel, and AMD doesn't require explicit cross socket communication - the server board gets simpler and thus cheaper. For price conscious server buyers, this is an excellent option.

However, if your software is expensive, everything changes. In that case, you care less about the heavy price tags of the Platinum Xeons. For those scenarios, Intel's Skylake-EP Xeons deliver the highest single threaded performance (courtesy of the 3.8 GHz turbo clock), high throughput without much (hardware) tuning, and server managers get the reassurance of Intel's reliable track record. And if you use expensive HPC software, you will probably get the benefits of Intel's beefy AVX 2.0 and/or AVX-512 implementations.

The second consideration is the type of buyer. It is clear that you have to tune more and work harder to get the best performance out of AMD EPYC CPUs. In many ways it is basically a "virtual octal socket" solution. For enterprises with a small infrastructure crew and server hardware on premise, spending time on hardware tuning is not an option most of the time. For the cloud vendors, the knowledge will be available and tuning for EPYC will be a one-time investment. Microsoft is already deploying AMD's EPYC in their Azure Cloud Datacenters.

Looking Towards the Future

Looking towards the future, Intel has the better topology to add more cores in future CPU generations. However AMD's newest core is a formidable opponent. Scalar floating point operations are clearly faster on the AMD core, and integer performance is – at the same clock – on par with Intel's best. The dual CCX layout and quad die setup leave quite a bit of performance on the table, so it will be interesting how much AMD has learned from this when they launch the 7 nm "Rome" successor. Their SKU line-up is still very limited.

All in all, it must be said that AMD executed very well and delivered a new server CPU that can offer competitive performance for a lower price point in some key markets. Server customers with non-scalar sparse matrix HPC and Big Data applications should especially take notice.

As for Intel, the company has delivered a very attractive and well scaling product. But some of the technological advances in Skylake-SP are overshadowed by the heavy price tags and somewhat "over the top" market segmentation.

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  • PixyMisa - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    Epyc has been out for three weeks. Reply
  • Shankar1962 - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    So you think Intel won't release anything new again by then? Intel would be ready for cascadelake by then. None of the big players won't switch to AMD. Skylake alone is enough to beat epyc handsomely and cascadelake will just blow epyc. Its funny people are looking at lab results when real workloads are showing 1.5-1.7x speed improvement Reply
  • PixyMisa - Saturday, July 15, 2017 - link

    This IS comparing AMD to Intel's newest CPUs, you idiot. Skylake loses to Epyc outright on many workloads, and is destroyed by Epyc on TCO. Reply
  • Shankar1962 - Sunday, July 16, 2017 - link

    Mind your language asshole
    Either continue the debate or find another place for your shit and ur language
    Real workloads don't happen in the labs you moron
    Real workloads are specific to each company and Intel is ahead either way
    If you have the guts come out with Q3 Q4 2017 and 2018 revenues from AMD
    If you come back debating epyc won over skylake if AMD gets 5-10% share then i pity your common sense and your analysis
    You are a bigger idiot because you spoiled a healthy thread where people were taking sides by presenting technical perspective
    Reply
  • PixyMisa - Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - link

    I'm sorry you're an idiot. Reply
  • Shankar1962 - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    Does not matter. We can debate this forever but Intel is just ahead and better optimized for real world workloads. Nvidia i agree is a potential threat and ahead in AI workloads which is the future but AMD is just an unnecessary hype. Since the fan boys are so excited with lab results (funny) lets look at Q3,Q4 results to see how many are ordering to test it for future deployment. Reply
  • martinpw - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    I'm curious about the clock speed reduction with AVX-512. If code makes use of these instructions and gets a speedup, will all other code slow down due to lower overall clock speeds? In other words, how much AVX-512 do you have to use before things start clocking down? It feels like it might be a risk that AVX-512 may actually be counterproductive if not used heavily. Reply
  • msroadkill612 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    (sorry if a repost)

    Well yeah, but this is where it starts getting weird - 4-6 vega gpuS, hbm2 ram & huge raid nvme , all on the second socket of your 32 core, c/gpu compute ~Epyc server:

    https://marketrealist.imgix.net/uploads/2017/07/A1...

    from

    http://marketrealist.com/2017/07/how-amd-plans-to-...

    All these fabric linked processors, can interact independently of the system bus. Most data seems to get point to point in 2 hops, at about 40GBps bi-directional (~40 pcie3 lanes, which would need many hops), and can be combined to 160GBps - as i recall.

    Suitably custom hot rodded for fabric rather than pcie3, the nvme quad arrays could reach 16MBps sequential imo on epycs/vegaS native nvme ports.

    To the extent that gpuS are increasing their role in big servers, intel and nvidea simply have no answer to amd in the bulk of this market segment.
    Reply
  • davide445 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Finally real competition in the HPC market. Waiting for the next top500 AMD powered supercomputer. Reply
  • Shankar1962 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Intel makes $60billion a year and its official that Skylake was shipping from Feb17 so i do not understand this excitement from AMD fan boys......if it is so good can we discuss the quarterly revenues between these companies? Why is AMD selling for very low prices when you claim superior performance over Intel? You can charge less but almost 40-50% cheap compared to Intel really?
    AMD exists because they are always inferior and can beat Intel only by selling for low prices and that too for what gaining 5-10% market which is just a matter of time before Intel releases more SKUs to grab it back
    What about the software optimizations and extra BOM if someone switches to AMD?
    What if AMD goes into hibernation like they did in last 5-6years?
    Can you mention one innovation from AMD that changed the world?
    Intel is a leader and all the technology we enjoy today happenned because of Intel technology.
    Intel is a data center giant have head start have the resources money acquisitions like altera mobileeye movidus infineon nirvana etc and its just impossible that they will lose
    Even if all the competent combines Intel will maintain atleast 80% share even 10years from now
    Reply

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