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
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  • Oliseo - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    Tell your mum you're up late again and she will force you to go outside, and we all know how much your dislike having to do that. Reply
  • prophet001 - Monday, August 12, 2019 - link

    I don't get the hate for windows server? How you gonna run a domain and active directory in linux? Reply
  • CaedenV - Wednesday, August 21, 2019 - link

    I use to work in schools, and a few that could not afford Windows Server would run AD through some Linux application. It was not exactly full-featured, but it worked well enough for 'free' solution. Reply
  • deltaFx2 - Wednesday, August 07, 2019 - link

    @Pancakes: Are you kidding? 1T perf is at par with Skylake. Windows licenses per core. Why would anyone buy a SKU with more cores than they need? And if they did do that, why would they not run them on a VM? Do these people also buy more racks than they need and run windows just for the fun of it? Reply
  • close - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    VMware licenses per socket. I'm not sure what kind of niche market one would have to be in (maybe HPC on Windows with the HPC Pack?) to run Win server bare metal on this thing. So I'm pretty sure the average cores/VM for Windows servers is relatively low and no reason for concern. Reply
  • schujj07 - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    @deltaFx2 Most people purchase more cores than they currently need so that they can grow. In the long run it is cheaper to purchase a higher SKU right now than purchase a second host a year down the road.
    @close There are companies that are Windows only so they would install Hyper-V onto this host to use as their hypervisor. However, even under VMware if you want to license Windows as a VM you have to pay the per-core licensing for every CPU core on each VM. I looked into getting volume licensing for Server 2016 for the company I work for we have 2 hosts with dual 24 core Epyc 7401's and we would need to get 16 dual core license packs for each instance of Server 2016. It ended up that we couldn't afford to get Sever 2016 because it would have cost us $5k per instance of Server 2016.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    @schujj07 Just buy a Windows Server Datacenter license for each host and you don't have to worry about licensing each VM. Reply
  • schujj07 - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    AFAIK it doesn't work that way when you are running VMware. With VMware you will still have to license each one. Reply
  • wolrah - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    @schujj07 nope. Windows Server licensing is the same no matter which hypervisor you're using. Datacenter licenses allow unlimited VMs on any licensed host. Reply
  • diehardmacfan - Thursday, August 08, 2019 - link

    This is correct. You do need to buy the licenses to match the core count of the hypervisor, however. Reply

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