First Impressions

Due to bad luck and timing issues we have not been able to test the latest Intel and AMD servers CPU in our most demanding workloads. However, the metrics we were able to perform shows that AMD is offering a product that pushes out Intel for performance and steals the show for performance-per-dollar.

For those with little time: at the high end with socketed x86 CPUs, AMD offers you up to 50 to 100% higher performance while offering a 40% lower price. Unless you go for the low end server CPUs, there is no contest: AMD offers much better performance for a much lower price than Intel, with more memory channels and over 2x the number of PCIe lanes. These are also PCIe 4.0 lanes. What if you want more than 2 TB of RAM in your dual socket server? The discount in favor of AMD just became 50%. 

We can only applaud this with enthusiasm as it empowers all the professionals who do not enjoy the same negotiating power as the Amazons, Azure and other large scale players of this world. Spend about $4k and you get 64 second generation EPYC cores. The 1P offerings offer even better deals to those with a tight budget.

So has AMD done the unthinkable? Beaten Intel by such a large margin that there is no contest? For now, based on our preliminary testing, that is the case. The launch of AMD's second generation EPYC processors is nothing short of historic, beating the competition by a large margin in almost every metric: performance, performance per watt and performance per dollar.  

Analysts in the industry have stated that AMD expects to double their share in the server market by Q2 2020, and there is every reason to believe that AMD will succeed. The AMD EPYC is an extremely attractive server platform with an unbeatable performance per dollar ratio. 

Intel's most likely immediate defense will be lowering their prices for a select number of important customers, which won't be made public. The company is also likely to showcase its 56-core Xeon Platinum 9200 series processors, which aren't socketed and only available from a limited number of vendors, and are listed without pricing so there's no firm determination on the value of those processors. Ultimately, if Intel wanted a core-for-core comparison here, we would have expected them to reach out and offer a Xeon 9200 system to test. That didn't happen. But keep an eye out on Intel's messaging in the next few months.

As you know, Ice lake is Intel's most promising response, and that chip will be available somewhere in the mid of 2020. Ice lake promises 18% higher IPC, eight instead of six memory channels and should be able to offer 56 or more cores in reasonable power envelope as it will use Intel's most advanced 10 nm process. The big question will be around the implementation of the design, if it uses chiplets, how the memory works, and the frequencies they can reach.

Overall, AMD has done a stellar job. The city may be built on seven hills, but Rome's 8x8-core chiplet design is a truly cultural phenomenon of the semiconductor industry.

We'll be revisiting more big data benchmarks through August and September, and hopefully have individual chip benchmark reviews coming soon. Stay tuned for those as and when we're able to acquire the other hardware.

Can't wait? Then read our interview with AMD's SVP and GM of the Datacenter and Embedded Solutions Group, Forrest Norrod, where we talk about Napes, Rome, Milan, and Genoa. It's all coming up EPYC.

An Interview with AMD’s Forrest Norrod: Naples, Rome, Milan, & Genoa

HPC: NAMD
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  • Oliseo - Thursday, August 8, 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 7, 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 8, 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 8, 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 8, 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 8, 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 8, 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 8, 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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