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 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    LOL, buthurt intel fanboy claims that the only unbiased benchmark in the review is THE MOST biased benchmark in the review, the one that was done entirely for the puprpose to help intel save face.

    Because if many core servers running 128 gigs of ram are primarily used to run 16 megabyte databases in the real world. That's right!
    Reply
  • Beany2013 - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    Sure, test against Ubuntu 17.04 if you only plan to have your server running till January. When it goes end of life. That's not a joke - non LTS Ubuntu released get nine months patches and that's it.

    https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Releases

    16.04 is supported till 2021, it's what will be used in production by people who actually *buy* and *use* servers and as such it's a perfectly representative benchmark for people like me who are looking at dropping six figures on this level of hardware soon and want to see how it performs on...goodness, realistic workloads.
    Reply
  • rahvin - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    This is a silly argument. No one running these is going to be running bleeding edge software, compiling special kernels or putting optimizing compiler flags on anything. Enterprise runs on stable verified software and OS's. Your typical Enterprise Linux install is similar to RHEL 6 or 7 or it's variants (some are still running RHEL 5 with a 2.6 kernel!). Both RHEL6 and 7 have kernels that are 5+ years old and if you go with 6 it's closer to 10 year old.

    Enterprises don't run bleeding edge software or compile with aggressive flags, these things create regressions and difficult to trace bugs that cost time and lots of money. Your average enterprise is going to care about one thing, that's performance/watt running something like a LAMP stack or database on a standard vanilla distribution like RHEL. Any large enterprise is going to take a review like this and use it as data point when they buy a server and put a standard image on it and test their own workloads perf/watt.

    Some of the enterprises who are more fault tolerant might run something as bleeding edge as an Ubuntu Server LTS release. This review is a fair review for the expected audience, yes every writer has a little bias but I'd dare you to find it in this article, because the fanboi's on both sides are complaining that indicates how fair the review is.
    Reply
  • jjj - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    Do remember that the future is chiplets, even for Intel.
    The 2 are approaching that a bit differently as AMD had more cost constrains so they went with a 4 cores CCX that can be reused in many different prods.

    Highly doubt that AMD ever goes back to a very large die and it's not like Intel could do a monolithic 48 cores on 10nm this year or even next year and that would be even harder in a competitive market. Sure if they had a Cortex A75 like core and a lot less cache, that's another matter but they are so far behind in perf/mm2 that it's hard to even imagine that they can ever be that efficient.
    Reply
  • coder543 - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    Never heard the term "chiplet" before. I think AMD has adequately demonstrated the advantages (much higher yield -> lower cost, more than adequate performance), but I haven't heard Intel ever announce that they're planning to do this approach. After the embarrassment that they're experiencing now, maybe they will. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    Look up Intel's EMIB. It's an obvious future for that route to take as process nodes get smaller. Reply
  • Threska - Saturday, July 22, 2017 - link

    We may see their interposer (like used with their GPUs) technology being used. Reply
  • jeffsci - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    Benchmarking NAMD with pre-compiled binaries is pretty silly. If you can't figure out how to compile it for each every processor of interest, you shouldn't be benchmarking it. Reply
  • CajunArson - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    On top of all that, they couldn't even be bothered to download and install a (completely free) vanilla version that was released this year. Their version of NAMD 2.10 is from *2014*!

    http://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Development/Download/downlo...
    Reply
  • tamalero - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - link

    Do high level servers update their versions constantly?
    I know that most of the critical stuff, only patch serious vulnerabilities and not update constantly to newer things just because they are available.
    Reply

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