A Confusing Market

IT managers have it tough; Intel's Xeon line honestly does not make much sense. Initially things were simple, Intel had dual processor Xeons simply branded as the Intel Xeon, and quad processor Xeons that were aptly named Xeon MP. The regular Xeon processors were validated for up to 2-way operation, while the Xeon MP could be used in 2-way, 4-way and 8-way servers.

The regular 2-way Xeons were basically desktop Pentium 4s, while the Xeon MPs included an on-die L3 cache. Fast forward today and things have definitely changed.

We are comparing three different Intel cores to AMD's one and only Opteron core, so let's focus on the Intel cores first. Intel's Prestonia core is the 0.13-micron heart and soul of the 2-way Xeon processor now. The latest and greatest Prestonia based Xeon runs at 3.2GHz and features a 512KB L2 cache as well as a 2MB on-die L3 cache. This Prestonia should sound very familiar as it is basically a Xeon version of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, which was a Pentium 4 version of the Xeon MP at a higher clock speed. Yes, Prestonia is a server version of a desktop version of a server processor. In fact, the only difference between Prestonia and the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (other than packaging) is that the Prestonia only supports the 533MHz FSB. Front Side Bus bandwidth is actually a very serious issue when it comes to Intel CPUs, but we'll talk about that shortly.

Next we have the Xeon MP processors based off of Intel's 0.13-micron Gallatin core. The Gallatin core is what the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition was derived from, and offers 1MB, 2MB and now 4MB on-die L3 cache configurations. Prior to this article the largest cache size available on a Gallatin core was 2MB, but today Intel is launching their 4MB Gallatin parts. Both the Gallatin 2MB and 4MB parts continue to use a 400MHz FSB, which is the Xeon MP's Achilles' heel. The Gallatin 4MB parts are available in speeds of up to 3.0GHz, which we are including in this review today.

AMD's offerings are much simpler; the Opteron is available in 1-way, 2-way and 4-way+ configurations: the 1xx, 2xx and 8xx series respectively. AMD's offerings haven't changed since our web server comparison, although we should see 2.4GHz Opterons debut in the near future.

Index FSB Impact on Performance: Intel's Achilles' heel
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  • Blackbrrd - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    Hmm... the site below has some info about Numa (non unified memory architecture), and it looks like the os you're using isn't Numa enabled... Is this correct? Is there any real world benefit from Numa with Opteron?

    http://www.gamepc.com/labs/view_content.asp?id=opt...
    Reply
  • zarjad - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    Could you speculate which way the advantage should be going in a BI benchmark (say TPC-H type of a test)? These are long running queries with gigabytes size tables. Reply
  • Jason Clark - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    We started playing around with a couple of mysql benchmarks a few weeks ago namely OSDB and some new multithreaded benchmarks from MySQL themselves. We're hoping to get some valid tests that produce real results in the future.

    Cheers.
    Reply
  • Jason Clark - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    In fact we did some recent testing to start out 64bit linux testing and mysql 4.0.17 on suse 64 had a segmentation fault starting <WINK> known issue for mysql as well... <WINK> <WINK> Reply
  • Jason Clark - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    Steveoc, it hardly runs like a dog. Let's not turn this into a one sided os war :) The test make sense as they are, but a 64bit article is on the books for later. We've already been playing around with Suse 64bit and some others and whether you agree or not 64bit is still immature, period full stop. Support is there but it has some maturing to do. Reply
  • steveoc - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    All these tests show is that Opteron, running Windows, runs like a Dog. As if we couldnt predict that result already ...

    The tests will only make sense once you are running 64bit linux. In fact, Id love to see a test of Dual Xeon + Win2003 + MSSQL vs Dual Opteron + 64bit Gentoo + 64bit MySQL .. that would be very interesting indeed.

    For anyone out there claiming that '64bit software has a looong way to go', that is only true for Windows. Unix (and Linux) have been running 64bit for a long time now, and the AMD64 has very good support under Linux.
    Reply
  • dweigert - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    Seeing the difference whether NUMA us used or not would be *VERY* interesting. Also comparing against other NUMA aware OS's (Linux 2.63 or better kernel, or whatever) would be a good test too. Reply
  • hirschma - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    #25 - Seems that it is not for sale to the general public, not that I could find. If anyone knows where/how to get one, please let me know.

    I have an application that is quite expensive and is licensed by the box, no matter how many CPUs it has ;) I'm guessing that building a low-end quad would give me more throughput per $$ than a second license/second box.

    Jonathan
    Reply
  • Jason Clark - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    We're also looking at some 64bit .NET benchmarks as we're real close to having a real-world application that we can hammer. Reply
  • Jason Clark - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    An interesting article would be the effect of NUMA on enterprise level applications. GamePC did a bit of a write up on it, but it was limited to desktop and synthetic benchmarks. Would any of you be interested in seeing the effects of NUMA on and off on the sql tests? Reply

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