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



View All Comments

  • Dug - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    You still have to pay for cores on datacenter. Each datacenter license covers 2 cores with a minimum purchase of 8. So over 8 cores and you are buying more licenses. 64 cores is about $25k Reply
  • MDD1963 - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    Windows license (Standard or Datacenter) covers 2 *sockets* for, a total of 16 cores....; if you have more than 2 sockets, you need more licenses...; if you have 2 sockets, filled with 8 core CPUs, you are good with one standard license... If you have 20 total cores, you need a standard license, and a pair of '2 core' add ons... If you have 32 cores, you need 2 full standard licenses.... Reply
  • MDD1963 - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    Datacenter is still licensed for 16 cores, with little 2 pack increments available, or, in the case of a 64 core CPU, effectively 4 Datacenter licenses would be required...($6k per 16 cores, or, roughly $24k) Reply
  • deltaFx2 - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    @schujj07: Of course I get that. The OP @Pancakes implied that Rome was going to hurt the wallets of buyers using windows server. The implication being this would not happen if they bought Intel. I was questioning those assumptions. How can Rome cost more money for windows licenses unless rome needs more cores to get the same job done or enterprises overprovision Rome (in terms of total cores) vs. Intel. That would make sense if the per-thread performance is worse but it's not. Reply
  • schujj07 - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    The problem is Microsoft went to the Oracle model of licensing for Server 2016/19. That means that you have to license EVERY CPU core it can be run on. Even if you create a VM with only 8 cores, those 8 cores won't always be running on the same cores of the CPU. That is where Rome hurts the pockets of people. You would pay $10k/instance of Server Standard on a single dual 64 core host or $65k/host for Server DataCenter on a dual 64 core host. Reply
  • browned - Saturday, August 10, 2019 - link

    We are currently a small MS shop, VMWare with 8 sockets licensed, Windows Datacenter License. 4 Hosts, 2 x 8 core due to Windows Licensing limits. But we are running 120+ majority Windows systems on those hosts.

    I see our future with 4 x 16 core systems, unless our CPU requirements grow, in which case we could look at 3 x 48 or 2 x 64 core or 4 x 24 core and buy another lot of datacenter licenses. Because we already have 64 cores licensed the uplift to 96 or 128 is not something we would worry about.

    We would also get a benefit from only using 2, 3, or 4 of our 8 VMWare socket licenses. We could them implement a better DR system, or use those licenses at another site that currently use Robo licenses.
  • jgraham11 - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    so how does it work with hyper threaded CPUs? And what if the server owner decides to not run Intel Hyperthreading because it is so prone to CPU exploits (most 10 yrs+ old). Does Google still pay for those cores?? Reply
  • ianisiam - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    You only pay for physical cores, not logical. Reply
  • twotwotwo - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Sort of a fun thing there is that in the past you've had to buy more cores than you need sometimes: lower-end parts that had enough CPU oomph may not support all the RAM or I/O you want, or maybe some feature you wanted was absent or disabled. These seem to let you load up on RAM and I/O at even 8C or 16C (min. 1P or 2P configs).

    Of course, some CPU-bound apps can't take advantage of that, but in the right situation being able to build as lopsided a machine as you want might even help out the folks who pay by the core.
  • azfacea - Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - link

    F Reply

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