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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  • Fraggster - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    intel=pwnd again :) Reply
  • Jason Clark - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    64Bit tests are next on our agenda, once there is an Extended 64bit version of SQL Server.... :) We're looking into other avenues as well.

    Andreas, windows 2003 enterprise is what we used.
    Reply
  • fukka - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Would the Opterons gain any advantage using a 64bit OS (aka Linux) and a database that is much bigger than 4GB in size?

    That would be interesting to see, but I suppose the IA32e will address that advantage...
    Reply
  • andreasl - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Hey Anand have you thought about moving to Server 2003 instead of running 2000? And any chance of seeing 64-bit results anytime soon? (does a 64-bit version of your app even exist?) Reply
  • christophergorge - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Opteron only works with ECC registered memory. They only come up to DDR333. Reply
  • raptor666 - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Maybe because 4 way boards might not support it.

    Just a guess but honestly i'm not sure.

    Peter

    Reply
  • tolgae - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    Stupid question probably but why didn't you use DDR400 on the Opteron? Reply
  • CRAMITPAL - Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - link

    No surprises here... Anyone with a clue has known for a year that Opteron/A64 is a far superior architecture to anything Intel bulds, sells, or plans to produce in the next two years. Reply

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