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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  • skiboysteve - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    whats the deal with the slow ddr333 memory Reply
  • Jason Clark - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Cygni, if you have a peek at the 2 way web test we took shots of the monsters in that article..

    Cheers
    Reply
  • SDA - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Ouch. At first it doesn't look like Intel is pwnd (sure, they lose in the four-way benchmarks, but as Opteron vs. Xeon benches go this one's still pretty close)... then the cost of the Xeon is factored in, especially relative to the Opteron 24x (which is even cheaper and equally suitable for 2-way systems).

    Things might change with the FSB800 Xeons, though. The Opteron will still offer a lot more bang for the buck, but the Xeon might offer more bang then. It all depends on how well the 90nm Opterons scale, I guess.
    Reply
  • Cygni - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Very cool. So if your going 2 way for a DB, Xeon's look pretty good. I wouldnt have expected that.

    And can you guys snap some pics of the 4 way Xeon and Opteron boxes for us techno geeks that need a new wallpaper? ;)
    Reply
  • Jason Clark - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Numa was turned on.... 64Bit is just waiting on software. Although 64bit is a reality hardware wise, software still has a loooong way to go yet. We may do some 64 Bit .NET stuff at some point in the future as well. Reply
  • SUOrangeman - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Looks like DDR400 ECC+Reg is readily available to me as well ...

    http://www.crucial.com/store/listmodule.asp?module...

    -SUO
    Reply
  • Boonesmi - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    christophergorge - ddr400 reg/ecc (ie pc3200) is very much available, i just put 2gb in a cad/cam opteron workstation a couple weeks ago Reply
  • dweigert - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    I can't wait to see what happens when they do these again with NUMA turned on and a 64 bit OS. GamePC just released a set of astounding memory benchmarks,

    http://www.gamepc.com/labs/view_content.asp?id=opt...

    This ought to be some food for thought.
    Reply
  • menads - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    To the people that said there is no DDR400 w ECC -that is pure BS! ECC/Reg DDR400 IS available for more than an year and the latest official Opteron SPEC submission of AMD is done with such memory!
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Just a quick question for whoever knows the answer: what's the die size on the 4MB Xeon? Reply

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