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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  • ddriver - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    Gotta love the "you don't care about the xeon prices" part thou. Now that intel don't have a performance advantage, and their product value at the high end is half that of amd, AT plays the "intel is the better brand" card. So expected... Reply
  • OZRN - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    You need some perspective. Database licensing for Oracle happens per core, where Intel's performance is frequently better in a straight line and since they achieve it on lower core count it's actually better value for the use case. Higher per-CPU cost is not so much of a concern when you pay twice as much for a processor license to cover those cores.

    I'm an AMD fan and I made this account just for you, sweetheart, but don't blind yourself to the truth just because Intel has a history of shady business. In most regards this is a balanced review, and where it isn't, they tell you why it might not be. Chill out.
    Reply
  • ddriver - Thursday, July 13, 2017 - link

    You are such a clown. Nobody, I repeat, NOBODY on this planet uses 64 core 128 thread 512 gigabytes of ram servers to run a few MB worth of database. You telling me to get pespective thus can mean only two things, that you are a buthurt intel fanboy troll or that you are in serious need of head examination. Or maybe even both. At any rate, that perfectly explains your ridiculously low standards for "balanced review". Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Friday, July 14, 2017 - link

    It seems no matter what opinion someone presents that might exhibit Intel in a better light - you are going to hate it anyway.

    What a life you must lead.
    Reply
  • OZRN - Friday, July 14, 2017 - link

    No, they don't. They use them to host gigabytes to terabytes worth of mission critical databases, with specified amounts of cores dedicated to seperate environments of hard partitioned data manipulation. I've done some quick math for you and in an average setup of Enterprise Edition of Oracle DB, with only the usually reported options and extras, this type of database would cost over $3.7m to run on *64 cores alone*. At this point, where is your hardware sunk costs argument?

    Also, I don't think anyone here is impressed by your ability to immediately personally insult people making valid points. Good luck finding your head that deep in your colon.
    Reply
  • CajunArson - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    "All of our testing was conducted on Ubuntu Server "Xenial" 16.04.2 LTS (Linux kernel 4.4.0 64 bit). The compiler that ships with this distribution is GCC 5.4.0."

    I'd recommend using a more updated distro and especially a more up to date compiler (GCC 5.4 is only a bug-fix release of a compiler from *2015*) if you want to see what these parts are truly capable of.

    Phoronix does heavy-duty Linux reviews and got some major performance boosts on the i9 7900X simply by using up to date distros: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&...

    Considering that Purley is just an upscaled version of the i9 7900X, I wouldn't be surprised to see different results.
    Reply
  • CajunArson - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    As a followup to my earlier comment, that Phoronix story, for example, shows a speedup factor of almost 5X on the C-ray benchmark simply by using a modern distro with some tuning for the more modern Skylake architecture.

    I'm not saying Purley would have a 5X speedup on C-ray per-say, but I'd be shocked if it didn't get a good boost using modern software that's actually designed for the Skylake architecture.
    Reply
  • CoachAub - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Keywords: "actually designed for the Skylake architecture". Will there be optimizations for AMD Epyc chips? Reply
  • mkozakewich - Friday, July 14, 2017 - link

    If it's a reasonable optimization, it makes sense to include it in the benchmark. If I were building these systems, I'd want to see benchmarks that resembled as closely as possible my company's workflow. (Which may be for older software or newer software; neither are inherently more relevant, though benchmarks on newer software will usually be relevant further into the future.) Reply
  • CajunArson - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    And another followup: The time kernel compilation on the i9 7900X got almost a factor of 2 speedup over the Ubuntu 16.04 using more modern distros. Reply

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