Benchmark Configuration and Methodology

For our look at the ThunderX2, all of our testing was conducted on Ubuntu Server 17.10, Linux kernel 4.13 64 bit. Normally we would use an LTS version, but since the Cavium shipped with that Ubuntu version, we did not want to take any unnecessary risks by changing the OS. The compiler that ships with this distribution is GCC 7.2.

Unfortunately however, our AMD EPYC system has missed the deadline for this article. We ran into problems with that system right up to press time and are still debugging the matter. But in short, the system did not perform well after we performed a kernel upgrade.

Finally, you will notice that the DRAM capacity varies among our server configurations. The reason is simple: Intel's system has 6 memory channels, while Cavium's ThunderX2 has 8 memory channels.

Gigabyte - Cavium "Saber"

CPU Two Cavium ThunderX2 CN9980 (32 cores at 2.2 - 2.5 GHz)
RAM 512 GB (16x32GB) Micron Reg. DDR4 @2666
Internal Disks SANDISK Cloudspeed Gen II 800 GB
Motherboard Cavium Sabre
BIOS version 18/2/2018
PSU Dual 1600W 80+ Platinum


Intel's Xeon "Purley" Server – S2P2SY3Q (2U Chassis)

CPU Two Intel Xeon Platinum 8176  (28 cores at 2.1 GHz, 165W)
RAM 384 GB (12x32 GB) Hynix DDR4-2666
Internal Disks SAMSUNG MZ7LM240 (bootdisk)
Intel SSD3710 800 GB (data)
Motherboard Intel S2600WF (Wolf Pass baseboard)
Chipset Intel Wellsburg
BIOS version 9/02/2017
PSU 1100W PSU (80+ Platinum)

The typical BIOS settings can be seen below. I should also note that we have both hyperthreading and Intel's virtualization technology enabled.

Other Notes

Both servers are fed by a standard European 230V (16 Amps max.) power line. The room temperature is monitored and kept at 23°C by our Airwell CRACs.

Energy Consumption

One thing that concerned us was the fact that the Gigabyte "Saber" system consumed 500W while simply running Linux (so mostly idle). Under load however the system consumed around 800W, which is in line with our expectations, as we have two 180W TDP chips inside. So as is typically the case for early test systems, we are not able to do any accurate power comparisons.

In fact, Cavium claims that the actual systems from HP, Gigabyte and others will be far more power efficient. The "Sabre" testing system we received had several power management problems: immature fan management firmware, a BMC bug, and an oversized (1600W) PSU.

The ThunderX2 SKUs: 16 to 32 Cores Memory Subsystem Measurements


View All Comments

  • name99 - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    For crying out loud!
    At the very least, if you want to pursue this obsession regarding vectors, look at ARM's SVE (Scalable Vector Extensions). THAT is where ARM is headed in the vector space.
    Fujitsu is implementing these for the cores of its next HPC machines, and they will likely roll out into other ARM cores (maybe Apple first? but who can be sure?) over the next few years.

    To the extent that Cavium has any interest in competing in HPC, if/when they choose to do so it will be on the basis of an SVE implementation, not on the basis of NEON.

    Meanwhile ARMv8 NEON is very much the equivalent of SSE. Not AVX, no, but SSE (in all its versions) yes.
  • tuxRoller - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    Nice comment.
    BTW, centriq (rip) only supports(ed) aarch64. I've no idea how much die space that saved, though.
  • Wilco1 - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    There is Cortex-A35, smallest AArch64 core so far with FP and Neon.

    However there are still big differences between RISC and CISC. For example it's not feasible for CISC to get anywhere near the same size/perf/power. The mobile Atom debacle has clearly shown it's not feasible to match small and efficient RISCs even with a better process and many billions of dollars...
  • peevee - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    It is not 8.2. Reply
  • lmcd - Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - link

    Necro but worth for historic reasons: A35 is AArch32 but ARMv8 Reply
  • ZolaIII - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    It would took them a same. AVX is a SIMD FP extension to the prime architectural instruction set same as NEON and cetera. The strict difference between CISC and RISC architecture is long gone and today's one's are combined & further more implement IVIL SIMDs and more & more of DSP components as MAC's. The train only starts on prime integer instruction set (where by the way ARM is stellar) and then switches it's worker's to FP extensions and accelerated blocks of different kinds. The same way lintel grow up AVX to 512 bit in current use NEON can be scaled up & beyond. Fuitsu worked with ARM on 1024 & 2048 NEON SIMD blocks couple of years ago. Still if you think how FP is a best way to do it you are wrong, DSP's use CP and it's much more efficient power & performance wise but less scalable.

    On what would you like server's to be compared? Almost 90% of enterprise servers run on Linux, even Microsoft is earning more money this day's on Linux than from selling Windows desktop & server's combined.
    You are very ignorant person. Why do you coment about the things you don't know anything about?
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    "I really think Anandtech needs to branch into different websites. Its very strange and unappealing to certain users to have business/consumer/random reviews/phone info all bunched together."

    Although I appreciate the feedback, I must admit that we enjoy doing a variety of things. There are a lot of cool things happening in the technology world, not all of which are in the consumer space. So rare articles like these - and we only publish a few a year - let us keep tabs on what's going on in some of those other markets.
  • HStewart - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    I would think that a lot of this depends what type of applications are running on server. Highly mathematical and especially any with Vectors will be likely different. Also there is no support for Windows based servers which limits which applications can be done - so my guess this will be useless if desiring a VMWave server.

    But it is interesting that it takes a 4SMT to compete with x86 based servers from Intel and AMD and with more cores 32 vs 22/28 depending on version.
  • Wilco1 - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    You're right, on floating point and vectors the results are different. To be precise - even more impressive. See the last page for example where it soundly beats Skylake on OpenFoam and a few other HPC benchmarks. Hence the huge interest from all the HPC companies.

    Note Windows has been running on Arm for quite some time. Microsoft runs Windows Server both on Centriq and ThunderX2. See eg. for more info.
  • HStewart - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    Windows on ARM is DOA, Reply

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