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

    Pumpkin not really..my 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.

    L8r
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

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

    I'll speculate that it was newegg.com =)
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    I 2nd #15 motion for pics =) Reply
  • DBBoy - Wednesday, March 03, 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.
    Reply
  • Tessel8 - Wednesday, March 03, 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.
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - link

    #30 Jason, Your statement would be in conflict with your previous server comparison article(http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.html?i=1935&am...

    "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:

    http://www.amd.com/us-en/Corporate/VirtualPressRoo...

    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.

    Sante
    Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, March 02, 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....
    Reply
  • lneves - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Can you guys share the "SQL Loader" benchmark tool and the scripts used?
    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Jason Clark - Tuesday, March 02, 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.

    Examples:
    http://www.swt.com/qo.html
    http://www.appro.com/product/server_4144h_2.asp
    Reply
  • Grayswan - Tuesday, March 02, 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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