If you examine the CPU industry and ask where the big money is, you have to look at the server and datacenter market. Ever since the Opteron days, AMD's market share has been rounded to zero percent, and with its first generation of EPYC processors using its new Zen microarchitecture, that number skipped up a small handful of points, but everyone has been waiting with bated breath for the second swing at the ball. AMD's Rome platform solves the concerns that first gen Naples had, plus this CPU family is designed to do many things: a new CPU microarchitecture on 7nm, offer up to 64 cores, offer 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0, offer 8 memory channels, and offer a unified memory architecture based on chiplets. Today marks the launch of Rome, and we have some of our own data to share on its performance.

Review edited by Dr. Ian Cutress

First Boot

Sixty-four cores. Each core with an improved Zen 2 core, offering ~15% better IPC performance than Naples (as tested in our consumer CPU review), and doubled AVX2/FP performance. The chip has a total of 256 MB of L3 cache, and 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes. AMD's second generation EPYC, in this case the EPYC 7742, is a behemoth.

Boot to BIOS, check the node information.

[Note: That 1500 mV reading in the screenshot is the same reading we see on consumer Ryzen platforms; it seems to be the non-DVFS voltage as listed in the firmware, but isn't actually observed]

It is clear that the raw specifications of our new Rome CPU is some of the most impressive on the market. The question then goes to whether or not this is the the new fastest server chip on the market - a claim that AMD is putting all its weight behind. If this is the new fastest CPU on the market, the question then becomes 'by how much?', and 'how much does it cost?'.

I have been covering server CPUs since the launch of the Opteron in 2003, but this is nothing like I have seen before: a competitive core and twice as much of them on a chip than what the competition (Intel, Cavium, even IBM) can offer. To quote AMD's SVP of its Enterprise division, Forrest Norrod

"We designed this part to compete with Ice Lake, expecting to make some headway on single threaded performance. We did not expect to be facing re-warmed Skylake instead. This is going to be one of the highlights of our careers"

Self-confidence is at all times high at AMD, and on paper it would appear to be warranted. The new Rome server CPUs have improved core IPC, a doubling of the core count at the high end, and it is using a new manufacturing process (7 nm) technology in one swoop. Typically we see a server company do one of those things at a time, not all three. It is indeed a big risk to take, and the potential to be exciting if everything falls into place. 

To put this into perspective: promising up to 2x FP performance, 2x cores, and a new process technology would have sounded so odd a few years ago. At the tail end of the Opteron days, just 4-5 years ago, Intel's best CPUs were up to three times faster. At the time, there was little to no reason whatsoever to buy a server with AMD Opterons. Two years ago, EPYC got AMD back into the server market, but although the performance per dollar ratio was a lot better than Intel's, it was not a complete victory. Not only was AMD was still trailing in database performance and AVX/FP performance, but partners and OEMs were also reluctant to partner with the company without a proven product.

So now that AMD has proven its worth with Naples, and AMD promising more than double the deployed designs of Rome with a very quick ramp to customers, we have to compare the old to the new. For the launch of the new hardware, AMD provided us with a dual EPYC 7742 system from Quanta, featuring two 64-core CPUs.

Zen 2 and Rome: SMILE For Performance


View All Comments

  • npz - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link


    Aerospace Corp:
    "Space Vehicle Modeling & Simulation Engineer"
    > Familiarity with Linux and high-performance computing environments

    "Data Scientist"
    > Working knowledge of Unix/Linux operating systems

    Citi Group:
    "Infrastructure Solutions Engineer"
    > Must have good understanding of Linux and networking concepts

    "Senior Data Engineer - Hadoop, VP"
    > Hands on experience with open source software platforms Linux
  • Oliseo - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    "Completely baseless claims. I have worked large scale government and military IT and Windows servers are the most common by far. "

    Working on reception will most likely be the reason for coming to that assumption, so we can go easy on you. It's an easy mistake to make.
  • James5mith - Tuesday, August 13, 2019 - link

    FreeIPA works pretty well for us. Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    if you run an industrial strength RDBMS (Oracle, DB2, and even SS) you run on some variant of linux. Reply
  • AlyxSharkBite - Friday, August 09, 2019 - link

    NPZ, I’d say you should do some fact checking before you make a broad statement. AWS allows you to choose your OS there’s a lot of Windows Servers there. The Department of Defense uses a lot of Windows Servers see a 2016 article (https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2016/0...

    Also here’s a handy graph on server os market share a little old but numbers won’t change that much. Notice *nix only have about 20% of the market. The other 80% is Windows Server

  • Bonez0r - Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - link

    Wasn't the Windows scheduler fixed in a Windows update two months ago?
  • Deshi! - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    I work as an application engineer for a major global finance company that develops and hosts banking and e-commerce software used by banks and major shopping outlets. 90% of all our servers are either Linux or AIX mainly running websphere or standalone Java instances. We only have a handful of Windows servers, mainly for stuff like active directory and Outlook/ SharePoint. So yeah allot of it depends on the use case, but allot of the big boys do use Linux or AIX. It's cheaper and performs better for these use cases. Reply
  • cyberguyz - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    I guess we all have to ask ourselves, who are the customers that would benefit most from a 64-core, 128 gen 4 PCIe processors? SMB or huge customers that would shell out many millions of $$$ for their middleware & backend systems? @Deshi! I or one of my L3 colleagues an L3 engineer contacted by your global finance company to fix Websphere problems some years back ;) Reply
  • FreckledTrout - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    @cyberguz, Who would benefit from these high core servers? Any company running VM's so pretty much every large company. This goes doubly for cloud providers. Reply
  • MDD1963 - Friday, August 09, 2019 - link

    of the '1800 servers', how many of those are virtual, just out of curiosity? ('1800 servers' is not quite as impressive if there were, for example, 10 hosts w/ 180 Windows VMs each, for example) U.S.A.F offices are still mostly Windows 10...I'd suspect the are datacenters at each base having a large Windows Server presence as well.. (But, we used Redhat onboard assorted recce aircraft for many years now....; which seems stupid in light of the fact they could easily use CentOS for free; presumably, a Senator's family members work at Redhat, and enjoy the large income from support contracts) Reply

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