First Round K.O.

We measured performance using two metrics: the average time it took to fulfill a request to the web server, and the total number of templates (pages) served by the web server during the 30-minute test period. The two numbers are related, but both are useful to look at in order to get an idea of the real world difference in performance between the platforms.

All of our tests were done on dual processor configurations. So, to make the charts easier to read, we omitted any 2-way labeling on the CPU names themselves.

Frankly, we were shocked when we saw the first performance results, and we ran and re-ran them to make sure our numbers were correct. In the end, they were.

The Opteron 248 setup managed to outperform Intel’s fastest, largest cache Xeon MP by a whopping 45%. Boasting 141 ms request times, the Opteron 248 system was 12% faster than the Opteron 244 setup, indicating very good scaling with clock speed — a 50% increase in performance for every 100% increase in clock speed.

It is widely known that the Opteron and Xeon should not be compared on a clock for clock basis, but with the 2.0GHz Xeon MP being the fastest Xeon MP available just about a year ago, it is interesting to note the performance advantage AMD can offer over aging Intel systems.

You don’t even have to go for the top-of-the-line Opteron system in order to achieve performance greater than an Intel Xeon platform; although not depicted here, even the Opteron 240 should be able to be, at least, as fast as the 2.8GHz Xeon MP.

Intel’s 533MHz FSB Xeon 3.20GHz with its 1MB L2 cache may be a better match for the Opteron, but it is going to take much more than a 400MHz increase in clock speed to close the 45% performance gap that exists here. These Xeon parts are hard to come by and we’d love to re-run the tests with the new 3.2GHz parts (although they have smaller caches, the extra clock speed and faster FSB should help performance a bit) to see how they stack up.

Here, you can see the real-world performance advantages from another angle. Instead of looking at it as how much more responsive the Opteron server was, look at it from a standpoint of how many more people were able to access the site being hosted.

The performance, once again, speaks for itself. Just as the Athlon MP was a leader in web and database serving performance, the Opteron carries the torch for AMD this time around.

Keep in mind that web and database server applications are very sensitive to memory performance. So, although the Xeon attempts to hide larger memory access latencies with its 2MB L3 cache, the Opteron’s on-die memory controller helps improve performance significantly. The Opteron’s TLB optimizations work alongside the on-die memory controller to ensure that accesses to main memory (which will happen more frequently on the Opteron than on the Xeon because of the absence of any L3 cache) occur as quickly as possible.

The Test Final Words


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  • Zuni - Thursday, December 18, 2003 - link

    TrogdorJW, I think you missed the point behind why a ramdisk was used. Every web application is governed by the time in which it can retrieve information from the database. We are testing the performance of a cpu in a web application server environment not in a database environment. The entire reason we used a RAMDISK was to ISOLATE the cpu not to hold it back by something else. Obviously in a production environment you hardly ever use a ramdisk. Most of them only format up to 4GB using AWE extensions. Again we wanted to ensure that the cpus were being taxed and were not being bottlenecked by the database in this instance.

    Cheers, and thanks for the feedback!
  • Visual - Thursday, December 18, 2003 - link

    I got a couple of questions...

    1) Is this Microsoft Windows 2003 Enterprise Server that ran on the opteron a 64-bit OS version? And is the IIS a 64-bit app? I guess not... But I didnt see it mentioned in the article, nor did I see a mention of the possible performance increase for the opterons with 64-bit software. I skipped a big part of the article though, because I'm in a hurry now, so if that info is in the article, forgive me.

    2) Why does the DB server has just 2GB ram? and probably 1GB used up for the ramdrive, so just 1GB RAM left for the DB server? While the webservers had a whooping 4GB ram... I dont have a clue about servers, but I'd imagine the database server would need more ram than the web server, seeing that it is the one dealing with all the data. Well I guess if the whole database could fit on a ramdrive of 1GB, it was small enough so RAM size would not be an issue...
  • lockup - Thursday, December 18, 2003 - link

    TrogdorJW, although the database had to use a ramdisk to prevent it from being the bottleneck in this case, that doesn't mean these benchmarks are less valid in the real world.

    There are some pretty hefty databases out there with wintel appservers on the front end. Also, there are web applications that are doing a bit more than taking an id, getting some data on a select statement and formatting it in HTML. For systems where performance has been a focus, you may see methods implemented in the application to take processing away from the db and in to the application.

  • skiboysteve - Thursday, December 18, 2003 - link

    you talked about why the new revison k8s can use ddr400, then you use ddr333

  • TrogdorJW - Thursday, December 18, 2003 - link

    Wow... nice performance from the AMD system!

    Too bad that, for the time being, it won't help a whole lot. The same people who bought Athlon MP will look to the Opteron as an upgrade, but unfortunately, most of the Intel camps will probably remain Intel for the present. Things to think about:

    1) As this review so clearly shows, servers are full of different bottlenecks. When tied to a DB server with a RamDisk holding the entire database, the Opteron killed the Xeon. But, it also mentions how in order to put any real strain on either CPU, they *had* to use a RamDisk on the DB server. That's not an option with real databases, usually... unless you're into having RamDisks that are several GBs in size! So, in real world scenarios, it looks as though the conclusion is that you'll need to have one hell of a database server before you even think about going with a server using either of these CPUs.

    2) AMD is not "easy as Dell." I hate Dell. We use them at my work. My company is a Fortune 500 company (top 100, actually). Guess who isn't going to use AMD in the office anytime soon....

    3) This sort of goes off of the last point, but we have 8 Dell servers in the data center I work in. All of them are Xeon dual proc systems. Actual amount of work done by these systems? Virtually NOTHING! Two of the systems aren't even in use at all! So, while the Opteron may be much more powerful, for big companies that may not even matter. We could have Pentium III Xeon servers, and they would still be more than fast enough. (We also have to IBM R6000 servers running a custom client-server application. Neither Intel nor AMD will get this server's spot!)

    4) CRAMITPAL supports AMD. People like CRAMITPAL support AMD. That does much more harm than good! I don't know about you, but if I had some stupid ass moron like CRAM trying to convince me to use an AMD system, I would do anything but what he recommended. That's where fanatacism gets you. So next time any of you think of bashing Intel and acting the fanboy, remember that emotions only hurt in big business. You can show cold hard facts, but if you're trying to get a CEO to switch from Intel to AMD, you're going to need a whole helluvalot of support. As the saying goes, no one ever got fired for recommending Intel. Sad, but true.

    5) The Itanium stuff... well, it will certainly be interesting to see a matchup. 2 and 4 way Itanium servers are not the real problem, though. Sure, the Opteron might win out in those competitions (I'll wait to see the numbers), but the real Itanium stronghold is stuff like the 128 way Itanium systems that are mentioned. That's just way out of the league of AMD right now. Sorry. But I hope that in the 64-bit competition, we'll get to see some systems with 8 GB of RAM or more in them, since that's where 64 bit computing actually becomes a real necessity.

    6) Also concerning the Itanium, SpecINT and SpecFP numbers can be almost completely meaningless as a performance comparison, depending on what you're using the server for. I don't have any in depth knowledge of the inner workings of Itanium servers, motherboards, etc. However, if I/O becomes a major part of the benchmarking, I believe I've heard that the Itanium does quite well in that arena. Like I said before, we'll have to actually see the benches before anything can be determined. (Unless someone has a *reputable* link to a comparison between Itanium 2 and Opteron?)

    Okay, enough babble. Cool article. Cool system. I don't need it - never will, probably - but cool, regardless.
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, December 17, 2003 - link

    I love glueless operation. But that's just it, we won't sell AMD as #1 even though it's better cause of Intel's crap as being better somehow. Yeah, they are much slower, but all they care about is whether Dell sells them. At least there are some who don't listen to what's the standard, i.e. we must use microsoft instead of linux and intel instead of AMD. Reply
  • TheRealMandak - Wednesday, December 17, 2003 - link

    How come you did not use PC3200 DIMM's ?

    I look forward to the next test.

    If any want more of this try:
  • Zuni - Wednesday, December 17, 2003 - link

    Ryan, the RAMDISK actually has nothing to do with the performance of the web servers..Remember we used a separate db server for the backend. The webservers didnt run a RAMDISK the databse server did..We measured the performance of the webservers not the database server. Reply
  • RyanVM - Wednesday, December 17, 2003 - link

    I'm wondering how much the memory controller affects RAMDISK performance..

    It seems to me that a RAMDISK would be eating up the Xeon's already limited amount of available bandwidth. Add to that the on-die controller of the Opteron, and suddenly a RAMDISK might not be as apples-to-apples as one would hope.

    I'd be interested in seeing performance testing with a lot of fast drives in a RAID5 array :P.
  • Pandaren - Wednesday, December 17, 2003 - link

    Superbike, don't encourage this extremist. Cult tactics promoted by Apple dihards never worked (2% marketshare), and the same tactics won't help AMD.

    Argue on facts, not emotional fluff. Turning this into a "Good versus Evil" argument only destroys the credibility of the person posting the argument (and hurts the reputation of AnandTech in general if people see nothing but flame wars).

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