First of all, Intel's benchmarks lend further support to what we already suspected: Intel's Scalable Xeon is better at serving databases for a number of reasons: better data locality (fewer NUMA nodes), better single-threaded performance, and a more "useable" cache. The claim that Intel offers much more predictable database performance seems very reasonable to us: the EPYC platform is much younger and much more complex to tune as it is a "virtual 8 socket" system.

Secondly it is true that the Intel Scalable Xeon is more versatile: the past 5 years AMD's presence in the server market was neglible, while Intel has been steadily adding virtualization features (posted interrupts), I/O features and more (TSX for example). Many of these features are now supported by the hypervisor and OSes out there.

The EPYC platform has some catching up to do. Firmware updates and other software updates were necessary to run a hypervisor, and only relatively recent versions of the Linux kernel (February 2017 w/4.10+) have support for the EPYC processor. So even if we doubt that the 8160 can really deliver 37% better performance than the AMD EPYC in the real world, there is no denying that the Intel Xeon is a "safer bet" for VMware virtualization.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to see that Intel admits that there are quite a few use cases out there where AMD has an advantage. The AMD EPYC has a performance per dollar advantage in webserving and Java servers, for example.

Otherwise, there is some merit to the claim that AVX-512 allows Intel to offer excellent HPC performance without the use of a GPU in compute intensive applications. At the same time, if you are after the best performance on these very parallel workloads, a GPU almost always offers several times higher performance. AVX-512 can also not save Intel in several bandwidth-intensive benchmarks such, as in fluid dynamics.

Intel Xeon-SP CPUs (Left: with Omni-Path)

One interesting element to the whole scenario is that at no point does Intel ever approach the performance per watt angle in these discussions. It leaves a big question unanswered from Intel - perhaps we should invoke Hanlon's Razor at this point and call it a missed opportunity, rather than suggest that Intel does not want to speak about power. Our own results showed a win for AMD's EPYC here though, when comparing two 145W Xeon 8176 parts to two 180W EPYC 7601 parts. More testing on specific workloads is needed.

In summary, Intel makes several good points, even when those points aren't always in their own favor. The company clearly has an interest in ensuring that the Xeon's performance leadership remains well-known in light of AMD's EPYC-fueled resurgence, and while there's nothing altruistic about Intel's benchmarking, they are working from a sound position. Still, in defending their position – and by extension their high margins – Intel does highlight the Xeon's biggest weakness versus the EPYC in this newly competitive market: the Skylake Xeon can offer excellent performance, but that performance comes with an equally heavy price tag.

HPC Benchmarks


View All Comments

  • smilingcrow - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    TSX has been implemented but how about ASF? Reply
  • CajunArson - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    Incidentally, for anybody who think Intel "cheated" with those numbers there's concrete proof from independent third-party reviewers that at least the GROMACS benchmark results that Intel itself is showing are not fully accurate... as in they are not fully accurate in *AMD's favor*.

    Here's a link to GROMACS results from Serve the Home that are actually using the newest version that finally turns on the AVX-512 support to show you what the Xeon platform was actually designed to do:

    So just remember that Intel is being pretty conservative with these numbers if their own published GROMACS results are anything to go by.
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    I would hope they’d be conservative in this sector. I’m guessing very knowledgeable people will be making the buying decisions here, and there may even be contractual expectations from the purchasing companies. Over promising and under delivering on an internal report might not just cost a few big sales, they might even result in lawsuits. Reply
  • tamalero - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    I think the problem is while intel usually uses the most optimized compilers and systems. They usually do not optimize the intel systems at all. At least in the consumer benchmarks.

    Not so sure about these enterprise because I have no idea what most of these tests do.
  • jjj - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    The biggest lie is through omission, the bulk of the volumes is at rather low ASP so if you are gonna test test 1k$ and bellow SoCs and use the I/O offered by each. Reply
  • eek2121 - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    I would be interested to see how AMD EPYC processors with lower core counts perform in the database benchmarks, as they should have few NUMA nodes. Reply
  • CajunArson - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    Wrong. You clearly don't understand how Epyc works. Literally every Epyc chip has the same number of NUMA nodes regardless of core count from the 7601 all the way down to the super-stripped down parts.

    Each chip has 4 dies that produce the same number of NUMA nodes, AMD just turns off cores on the lower-end parts.

    Maybe you should have actually learned about what Epyc was instead of wasting your time posting ignorant attacks on other people's posts.
  • eek2121 - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    The same goes for you. My ignorance with EPYC stems from poor availability and the lack of desire to learn about EPYC. You seem to have a full time job trolling on AnandTech. Go troll somewhere else. Reply
  • IGTrading - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    Chill guys :)

    Reading your posts I see you're both right, just using examples of different use cases.

    P.S. Cajun seems like a bit of an avid Intel supporter as well, but he's right : in AVX512 and in some particular software, Intel offers excellent performance.

    But that comes at a price, plus some more power consumption, plus the inability to upgrade (considering what Intel usually does to its customers) .
  • iwod - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    poor availability - do dell offer AMD now? Reply

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