Conclusion

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
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  • Topweasel - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    Yeah I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and I have no problem with them posting numbers even as analyzation of Intel in regards to EPYC. But a full page "review" of Intel's Epyc benchmarks as a product is kind of schilly. I mean where is their tests to back up the information? Where are the counterpart test where they test something similar that wasn't handpicked by Intel. How can any company assess the validity of a product based solely off of it's competitors testing of the product? Reply
  • bmf614 - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    If you could actually get ahold of Epyc they would probably review the hardware themselves but as of yet it is a paper launch. Reply
  • supdawgwtfd - Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - link

    It's not a paper launch dipshit.

    They can bearly keep up with orders for large companies.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - link

    To throw some context in here, the purpose of this article isn't to publish Intel's benchmarks. Rather, it's commentary on what has been a very unusual situation.

    Up until now, neither AMD nor Intel have engaged in any serious Skylake Xeon vs. Zen EPYC technical marketing.

    "AMD's technical marketing of the new CPU has been surprisingly absent, as the company not published any real server benchmarks. The only benchmarks published were SPEC CPU and Stream, with AMD preferring for its partners and third parties to promote performance"

    This despite the fact that AMD and Intel's server products haven't been competitive like this in nearly a decade. Normally you'd expect there to be case studies flying out left and right, which has not been the case. And it's especially surprising since, as the underdog, AMD needs to claw back lost ground.

    Consequently, Intel's own efforts are, to date, the first efforts by a server vendor to do a comprehensive set of benchmarks over a range of use cases. And let's be clear here: this is Intel doing this for Intel's own benefit. Which is why we've already previously reviewed the two CPUs, as have other 3rd party groups.

    Still, I think it's very interesting to look at what Intel has chosen to represent, and what their numbers show. Intel has more resources than pretty much everyone else when it comes to competitive analysis, after all. So their choices and where they show themselves falling behind AMD says a lot about the current situation.

    TL;DR: We thought this stuff was interesting, especially since neither vendor until now has done a Xeon-SP vs. EPYC comparison. And since we've already done our own independent review (https://www.anandtech.com/show/11544/intel-skylake... ), it gives us a set of data to compare to our own conclusions (and to be clear, this isn't a review nor are we trying to call it one)
    Reply
  • CajunArson - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    Yeah, you were so doing your righteous complaints when Anandtech did literally the same thing for AMD when AMD went out and misconfigured Intel boxes to pretend that Epyc was better than it actually was.

    Oh wait, you weren't.
    Reply
  • ddriver - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    The problem is the heavily biased towards intel AT coverage you clog. How could anyone complain about the opposite when AT have never displayed pro-amd bias? I have a problem with bias, and I point it out when I see it. You can bet your ass the moment AT shows unfair bais toward amd I will be there to point it out. But I cannot point it out if it doesn't exist. Reply
  • Hurr Durr - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    He was too busy ordering specific platters for his thousands of HDDs with one hand and screaming in threads about hypetane with the other. Reply
  • lkuzmanov - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    I've frequented the site for what must be over 10 years, but I fully agree this is, at the very least, a terrible idea. Reply
  • bmf614 - Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - link

    Toms and many other sites also covered this. Reply
  • wumpus - Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - link

    If Intel suddenly feels the need to compete with AMD, that 's news (practically "man bites dog" news judging from the last decade or so).

    The fact that they have to pick carefully contrived benchmarks to appear superior to AMD is even more telling. Totally ignoring power consumption (one of the biggest concerns for datacenters) is even more telling.
    Reply

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