AMD got the attention of Microsoft with their 64-bit Athlon 64/Opteron platform, and it was enough attention to warrant a new OS port to x86-64. Just weeks ago AMD scored another victory, with Intel announcing the adoption of AMD's 64-bit extensions to x86.

Future Xeon and Pentium 4 processors will ship with the x86-64 extensions enabled but architecturally they will be identical to the currently available Prescott based Pentium 4. The architectural similarity between Intel's IA-32e ad IA-32 processors (IA-32e is Intel's marketing equivalent to AMD64) is an important point to note as it means that if Opteron is able to outperform Xeon in 32-bit mode, it will maintain a performance advantage in 64-bit mode as well. We are assuming that Intel has no specialized hardware to improve 64-bit performance over AMD's solution, so the Xeon vs. Opteron comparisons we've brought you in the 32-bit world should still hold true in the 64-bit world later this year.

There has been much editorializing about Intel's recent 64-bit announcement, and we'll add nothing more than this to it all: it's a very good thing that Intel has gone the x86-64 route, it will mean that we see software support, drivers and overall market acceptance sooner. We have AMD to thank for Intel's backing x86-64, which is a big feather in AMD's cap but if there's one thing to be said about business it's that there's no room for pride.

Intel made the right decision; they would be losing sales if they didn't adopt x86-64, leaving those who needed a 64-bit x86 solution no option other than Opteron. However Intel gives AMD nothing if they adopt x86-64 in their own CPUs; AMD's sales don't increase and remember what we said about pride in business.

We'll talk more about Intel's upcoming 64-bit Xeons (Nocona and Potomac) in the conclusion, but let's get to what we're all here to see today: AMD's Opteron and Intel's Xeon go head to head in a real-world database serving comparison.

We compared the two titans in our web serving tests late last year, where AMD left Intel in a cloud of dust. Now the stakes are much higher, can Intel's deeply pipelined architecture contend with AMD's server-grown Opteron?

A Confusing Market


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  • Jason Clark - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Pumpkin not point is that we used a standard shipping opteron system. I'm not questioning that Opterons support DDR400 or that if you wanted to "tweak" out a server (which is rarely done) that you could. My point is that currently quad opterons are shipping with DDR333 (what we tested). I'm sure (as I said) that down the road ddr400 will be a reality for the boxed/packaged systems but obviously right now it is not. All 4 systems that were shipped to us all came with ddr33 not ddr400.

  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    I'm surprised nobody has speculated about who the corporation was that helped do the testing.

    I'll speculate that it was =)
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    I 2nd #15 motion for pics =) Reply
  • DBBoy - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Taken from an artilce on the new 4MB L3 products.

    The new 3-GHz Xeon MP with 4 Mbytes of cache is listed by Intel as available for $3,692 each in quantities of 1,000.
  • Tessel8 - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    Why do all of the benchmark results page refer to "Potomac" as the 2-way Xeon 3.2GHz processor. This is absolutely not correct (maybe you are refering to Prestonia?).

    Ex. The results are split up into two categories: 2-way and 4-way setups. Remember that the 3.2GHz Potomac based Xeon is only available in 2-way configurations and is thus absent from the 4-way graphs.

    I believe only the last paragraph on the last page is the only one refering to the correct Potomac processor.
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    #30 Jason, Your statement would be in conflict with your previous server comparison article(

    "Just recently, the x48 parts were launched, and with them, the Opteron gained support for DDR400 memory. Support for DDR400 has trickled down to all members of the Opteron family, but only certain revisions of the CPUs support DDR400"

    I certainly thought they released 4 new DDR400 opterons late last year, covering all configs. At any rate it is the 2way that is in question and you had 2way 533MHz Xeons so, by rights, you should have used opteron 248s as this would be what an customer interested in this configuration would buy. The price of these is half again of the 848 making them even more attractive:

    You had two 248s in that last server article but again used DDR333. The photo on Pg 2 showed one of the opterons as an "AM" revision which, you state in the article, qualifies for DDR400 support. Of course, if these cpus, DDR400 Reg. modules or enabled Mobo were not on hand then it cant be helped and as you say the DDR333 setup still shows the Xeon memory structural problem.

  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    Wow... given that the 533 FSB on the 2-way Xeons easily makes up for the difference in cache size, I'm amazed that Intel hasn't actually validated an 800 FSB Xeon solution. Then again, Intel is *SO* cautious with introducing advancements in technology, especially in the server/enterprise markets. Not only would they have to validate the faster CPU, but the motherboard and chipset validation would probably take them a year at least. (Who knows... they might be working on this as we speak.) Too bad the P4EE aren't dual-CPU capable (I think) - that would be interesting to see benchmarks. Not that any real corporation would dare to go that route, but still, interesting.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the Nocoma cores (and later Potomac). The 1 MB L2 cache can help out in desktop applications and more or less overcome the longer pipeline, but on Xeons where you're already running 2 MB L3 cache, I don't know that it will be as useful. Then again, the 800 FSB will probably more than make up for the deeper pipeline.

    Needless to say, Intel definitely has some work to do. I'm waiting for them to migrate the Pentium M (P6 core with improvements) back to the desktop. Heheheh....
  • lneves - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    Can you guys share the "SQL Loader" benchmark tool and the scripts used?
  • Jason Clark - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    Grayswan, each proc had 1 gb as that is how it has to be configured.

    More thoughts on DDR400. After doing a bit more reading I've confirmed that most all quad opterons ship with ddr333 so our tests conformed to what was available at the time of testing. Testing something that isn't a standard shipping configuration doesn't help people making a buying decision now. Most all quad opterons won't be hand built by an organization, they will be ordered as complete systems. Maybe later on this year we'll see a shift to ddr 400 and we can run some numbers.

  • Grayswan - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    What was the memory organization on the opterons? All memory on 1 proc? 2 modules on each proc? Also the 4-way opteron diagrom on P.3 shows each proc only using 2 interconnects. I believe all 3 are used so the diagram should be "crossbar"ish. Reply

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