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

  • Wilco1 - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    That's your uninformed opinion... Microsoft has different plans. Reply
  • ZolaIII - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    Windows is DOA anyway. M$ makes more money this day's on Linux then it does on Window's combined. Only thing making it still alive is MS Office but even that will change in couple of years. Reply
  • Wilco1 - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    Calling Windows dead when it ships on 95+% of PCs sold is eh... a little bit premature. Get back to me when 50+% of PCs ship with Linux instead of Windows. Reply
  • ZolaIII - Friday, May 25, 2018 - link

    Get back to me when windows ships with 5% in; servers, embedded, router's, smartphones... Reply
  • jimbo2779 - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    In what way is it making more from Linux? Reply
  • ZolaIII - Friday, May 25, 2018 - link
    Even your Windows PC, Office and everything else from Microsoft this day's is backed up by a cloud which is Linux based.
  • defaultluser - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    Page 11 has "Apache Spark and Energy Consumption" in the title, but the page only contains
    Apache Spark results. WHERE IS THE ENERGY CONSUMPTION?

    We need power consumption tests during benchmarks to show if the architecture has better perf/watt than Intel. Otherwise, why did you publish this obviously incomplete article?
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    Whoops. Sorry, that was a small section that was moved to page 5. Reply
  • ruthan - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    Well, where is the most important chart performance per dollar comparison with x86 solution?

    That virtualization support, is some arm specific yes i we need feature and proprietary hell like Lpars.. or its finally support Vmware? - that means virtualization.

    Where is could it run Crysis test?
  • HStewart - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    VMWare is not currently support - and probably not for a long time - unless they ran in emulation mode and it would slower than Atom

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