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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  • Shankar1962 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    To add on
    No one cares about these lab tests. Let's talk about the real world work loads.
    Look at what Google AWS ATT etc has to say as they already switched to xeon sky lake
    We should not really be debating if we have the clarity that we are talking about AMD getting just 5% -10% share by selling high end products they have for cheap prices....they fo not make too much money by doing that.....they have no other option as thats the only way they can dream of a 5-10% market share
    For Analogy think Intel in semiconductor as Apple in selling smartphones
    Intel has gross margins of ~63%
    They have a solid product portfolio technologies and roadmap .....we can debate this forever but the revenues profits innovations and history between these companies can answer everything
    Reply
  • deltaFx2 - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    "Can you mention one innovation from AMD that changed the world?" : None. But the same applies to Intel too, save, I suppose, the founders (Moore and Noyce) contributions to IC design back when they were at Fairchild/Shockley. That's not Intel's contribution. Computer Architecture/HPC? That's IBM. They invented the field along with others like CDC. Intel is an innovator in process technology, specifically manufacturing. Or used to be... others are catching up. That 3-yr lead that INtel loves to talk about is all but gone. So with that out of the way...

    AMD's contributions to x86 technology: x86-64, hypertransport, integrated memory controller, multicore, just to name a few. Intel copied all of them after being absolutely hammered by Opteron. Nehalem system architecture was a copy-paste of Opteron. It is to AMD's discredit that they ceded so much ground on the CPU microarchitecture since then with badly executed Bulldozer, but it was AMD that brought high-performance features to x86 server. Intel would've just loved to keep x86 on client and Itanium on server (remember that innovative atrocity?). Then there's a bunch on the GPU side (which INtel can't get right for love or money), but that came from an acquisition, so I won't count those.

    "AMD exists because they are always inferior". Remember K8? It absolutely hammered intel until 2007. Remember Intel's shenanigans bribing the likes of Dell to not carry K8? Getting fined in the EU for antitrust behaviors and settling with AMD in 2010? Not much of a memory card on you, is there?

    AMD gaining even 5-10% means two things for intel: Lower margins on all but the top end (Platinum) and a loss in market share. That's plain bad for the stock.

    "Intel is a data center giant have head start have the resources...". Yes, they are giants in datacenter compute. 99% market share. Only way to go from there is down. Also, those acquisitions you're talking about? Only altera applies to the datacenter. Also, remember McAfee for an eye-watering $7.8 bn? How's that working out for them?
    Reply
  • Shankar1962 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Nvidia who have been ahead than Intel in AI should be the more competent threat
    How much market share Intel loses depends on how they compete against Nvidia
    Amd will probably gain 5% by selling products for cheap prices
    Intel controls 98/99% share so it's inevitable to lose a few % as more players see the money potential but unless Intel loses to Nvidia there is annuphill battle for Qualcomm ARM.
    Reply
  • HanSolo71 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Could you guys create a Benchmark for Virtual Desktop Solutions? These AMD chips sound awesome for something like my Horizon View environment where I have hundreds of 2 core 4GB machines. Reply
  • Threska - Saturday, July 22, 2017 - link

    For VDI wouldn't either an APU setup, or CPU+GPU be better? Reply
  • msroadkill612 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Kudos to the authors. I imagine its gratifying to have stirred such healthy & voluminous debate :) Reply
  • milkod2001 - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    Are you guys still updating BENCH results? I cannot find there benchmark results for RYZEN CPUs when i want to compare them to others. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Friday, July 14, 2017 - link

    They've been there since the launch

    AMD (Zen) Ryzen 7 1800X:
    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/product/1853
    Reply
  • KKolev - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    I wonder if AMD'd EPYC CPU's can be overclocked. If so, the AMD EPYC 7351P would be very interesting indeed. Reply
  • uklio - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    How could you not do Cinebench results?! we need an answer! Reply

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