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 - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    Pumpkin, maybe next time there is 4GB of DDR400 ECC laying around we'll give it a run. It wasn't readily available to us when these tests were run. And in all honesty I doubt it would change any numbers by anything more than a percent. The bigger picture would remain the same.

  • Blackbrrd - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    It would have been real interesting to see a comparison with the Athlon MP processor platform... Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    #24 Opterons are now specified for DDR 400. So you should have tested them (and all the cpu's) at their maximum spec.. It might have made the difference in the 2way test where the opterons were close but not quite up to the Xeons.
  • Jason Clark - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    William, all we had on hand were the Xeons tested... we had requested 1MB parts but they didnt make it.

    Tyan S4880 is one that I know of, and the system we used is a reference amd system ("Quartet"). Appro makes a server based on it I think and a few other companies.
  • Jason Clark - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link


    Slow DDR333? It isn't slow, and it was what we had and it remained the same across platforms. These are servers not watercooled tweaked out systems running DDR500 :) This is a CPU test not a memory round up guys.
  • Jason Clark - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    zomg555 broaden your thinking to an IT director who is about to spend 50K on a server that has to last him X years. Do you spend it on a cpu capable of 32 bit only or a cpu capable of 64 bit that is also faster in 32 bit?. Then, look at the cost of each platform as per our cost graphs.

  • William Yu - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    If you already have 4P Xeon servers, there's no point in switching. But for a new 4P server, the difference isn't just 10%. It's $8800 based on the list price difference between the Xeon MP 4MB 3.2 and the Opteron 848. If it's somebody else's money, what the hell, buy the Xeon. If you have a direct stake in the financial status of the company... Reply
  • zomg555 - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    I was a little surprised by how close this test was. 10% more performance isn't enough to get most shops to switch from Intel Xeon to a new platform.
    It would have been interesting to see some tests with more than 4GB of memory, though. In these tests, the Xeons weren't paying a PAE bounce penalty, which would be sapping a lot of performance in servers with more physical memory.
  • hirschma - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    What hardware was used on these tests, just out of curiousity? Where can one get 4-way boards for Operton? I'd sure love to build a monster like that.

  • William Yu - Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - link

    Can you run these tests on the "crippled" Xeons with no L3 and 1MB L3? That would give a good picture for those who currently have Xeons and are exploring upgrades to their servers. (I.e., popin replacement for $$$ versus wholesale replacement.) Reply

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