Intel’s Turbo Modes

A last minute detail from Intel yesterday was information on the Turbo modes. As expected, not all of the processors actually run at their rated/base frequency: most will apply a series of turbo modes depending on how many cores are registered as ‘active’. Each core can have its frequency adjusted independently, allowing VMs to take advantage of different workload types and not be hamstrung by occupants on other VMs in the same socket. This becomes important when AVX, AVX2 and AVX-512 are being used at the same time.

Most of the turbo modes are a sliding scale, with the peak turbo used when only one or two cores are active, sliding down to a minimum frequency that may be the ‘base’ frequency or just above it. There’s a lot of information for the parts here, so we’ll break it down into stages.

First up, a look at the Platinum 8180 in the different modes:

It should be worth noting what the base frequency actually is, and some of the nuance in Intel’s wording here. The base frequency is the guaranteed frequency of the chip – Intel sells the chip with the base frequencies as the guarantee, such that when the chip is not idle and not in normal conditions (i.e. when not in thermal power states to reduce temperature) should operate at this frequency or above it. Intel also lists the per-core turbo frequencies as ‘Maximum Core Frequencies’ indicating that the processors could be running lower than listed, depending on power distribution and requirements in other areas of the chip (such as the uncore, or memory controller). It’s a vague set of terms but ultimately the frequency is determined on the fly and can be affected by many factors, but Intel guarantees a certain amount and provides guides as to what it expects the turbo frequencies to be.

As for the Platinum 8180, it keeps its top turbo modes while up to two cores are active, and then drops down. It does this again for another two cores, and a further two cores. From this point, under non-AVX load the CPU is pretty much the same frequency until >20 cores are loaded, but does not decrease that much in all.  For AVX 2.0 and AVX-512, the downward slope of more cores means less frequency continues, with AVX-512 taking a bigger jump down at 13 cores loaded. The final turbo frequency for AVX-512 running on all cores is 2.3 GHz.

Comparing the two 28-core CPUs for which we have turbo information gives this graph. The numbers relate to the number of cores need to be loaded for that frequency.

Both processors are equal to each other for dual core loading, but the separation occurs when more cores are loaded. As we move through to AVX 2.0 and AVX-512, it is clear where the separations are in performance – to get the best for variable core loading, the more expensive processors are required.

Here’s the big table for all the processors on Non-AVX loading:

Despite the 2.0/2.1 GHz base on most of the Platinum series, all the CPUs will turbo up to 3.7-3.8 GHz on low core loading except for the lower power Platinum 8153. For users wanting to strike a good balance between the core count and frequency, the Gold 6154 is probably the place to be: 18 cores that will only ever run at 3.7 GHz with non-AVX loading (3.5-2.7 GHz on AVX-512 depending on core count), and will be $3543 as a list price at 205W. It is perhaps worth noting that this will likely top any of the Core i9 processors planned: at 18-cores and 205W for 3.7 GHz, the Core i9-7980XE which will have 18 cores but run 165W will likely be clocked lower (but also only ~$2000).

Moving onto AVX2.0 and AVX-512:

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  • StargateSg7 - Sunday, August 6, 2017 - link

    Maybe I'm spoiled, but to me a BIG database is something I usually deal with on a daily basis
    such as 500,000 large and small video files ranging from two megabytes to over a PETABYTE
    (1000 Terabytes) per file running on a Windows and Linux network.

    What sort of read and write speeds do we get between disk, main memory and CPU
    and when doing special FX LIVE on such files which can be 960 x 540 pixel youtube-style
    videos up to full blown 120 fps 8192 x 4320 pixel RAW 64 bits per pixel colour RGBA files
    used for editing and video post-production.

    AND I need for the smaller files, total I/O-transaction rates at around
    OVER 500,000 STREAMS of 1-to-1000 64 kilobyte unique packets
    read and written PER SECOND. Basically 500,000 different users
    simultaneously need up to one thousand 64 kilobyte packets per
    second EACH sent to and read from their devices.

    Obviously Disk speed and network comm speed is an issue here, but on
    a low-level hardware basis, how much can these new Intel and AMD chips
    handle INTERNALLY on such massive data requirements?

    I need EXABYTE-level storage management on a chip! Can EITHER
    Xeon or EPyC do this well? Which One is the winner? ... Based upon
    this report it seems multiple 4-way EPyC processors on waterblocked
    blades could be racked on a 100 gigabit (or faster) fibre backbone
    to do 500,000 simultaneous users at a level MUCH CHEAPER than
    me having to goto IBM or HP for a 30+ million dollar HPC solution!
    Reply
  • PixyMisa - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    It seems like a well-balanced article to me. Sure the DB performance issue is a corner case, but from a technical point of view its worth knowing.

    I'd love to see a test on a larger database (tens of GB) though.
    Reply
  • philehidiot - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    It seems to me that some people should set up their own server review websites in order that they might find the unbiased balance that they so crave. They might also find a time dilation device that will allow them to perform the multitude of different workload tests they so desire. I believe this article stated quite clearly the time constraints and the limitations imposed by such constraints. This means that the benchmarks were scheduled down to the minute to get as many in as possible and therefore performing different tests based on the results of the previous benchmarks would have put the entire review dataset in jeopardy.

    It might be nice to consider just how much data has been acquired here, how it might have been done and the degree of interpretation. It might also be worth considering, if you can do a better job, setting up shop on your own and competing as obviously the standard would be so much higher.

    Sigh.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    Thank you for being reasonable. :-) Many of the benchmarks (Tinymembench, Stream, SPEC) etc. can be repeated, so people can actually check that we are unbiased. Reply
  • Shankar1962 - Monday, July 17, 2017 - link

    Don't go by the labs idiot
    Understand what real world workloads are.....understand what owning an entire rack means ......you started foul language so you deserve the same respect from me......
    Reply
  • roybotnik - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    EPYC looks extremely good here aside from the database benchmark, which isn't a useful benchmark anyways. Need to see the DB performance with 100GB+ of memory in use. Reply
  • CarlosYus - Friday, July 14, 2017 - link

    A detailed and unbiased article. I'm awaiting for more tests as testing time passes.
    3.2 Ghz is a moderate Turbo for AMD EPYC, I think AMD could push it further with a higher thermal envelope i/o 14 nm process improvement in the coming months.
    Reply
  • mdw9604 - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    Nice, comprehensive article. Glad to see AMD is competitive once again in the server CPU space. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    "Competitive" seems like an understatement, but yes, AMD is certainly bringing it! Reply
  • ddriver - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    Yeah, offering pretty much double the value is so barely competitive LOL. Reply

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