Dual Core Server Performance: AMD's Opteron x75 Series

Our first comparison of AMD's new dual core parts is in the server world - where AMD's new CPUs will be shipping to first.  Of course, no review is complete without a handful of interesting experiences from the lab, and this dual core launch was no exception. 

Server Test Platforms

AMD
Our Dual Core samples arrived a few weeks ago from AMD, well in advance of the launch date of April 21st. At the time of the samples' arrival, we didn't have a stable server board to use for our tests. The Tyan S2891 board that we had on hand was still going through BIOS changes and was not recommended for use with the Dual Core parts. As per AMD's recommendation, we secured a Tyan S2895 Workstation board, which AMD had verified was stable. We were uneasy running server based benchmarks on a workstation board and felt that a server based board recommended by AMD would have been more appropriate. That being said, both the S2891 and S2895 are very similar and are both nForce 4 based chipsets, so performance is virtually identical.


Intel
Intel is expected to release their Dual Core Xeon parts in the first quarter of 2006. So, we requested from Intel their latest Xeon MP system, since we were essentially putting a "4P" system against a Dual Xeon with the current hardware that we have in the lab. Intel, as always, came through with their SR4850HW4 4P system along with 4 Cranford 3.6 GHz 1MB L2 cache processors and 4 Potomac 3.3 GHz 8MB L3 Cache processors.

The SR4850HW4 system uses Intel's new E8500 server chipset "Twin Castle", which most importantly includes a new dual bus architecture that runs at 667MHz, up from 400MHz on older Xeon platforms. As you may have read in our last Quad Xeon article, the Xeon was in dire need of some front side bus bandwidth. Aside from the new bus architecture, the E8500 uses DDR2 based memory, in line with the current DP based Xeon systems.

Intel Front Intel memory Intel Cpu

When we began our testing on the new Intel platform, we quickly learned another "feature" of the SR4850HW4. After unpacking the system and setting it up, we proceeded to power it up with the default configuration with which the system had been shipped. The system wouldn't power up. With barely 2-3 days until the launch of this article, we were (needless to say) "on edge" about getting the benchmarks running. We placed an E-mail into our Intel contact, and within about 5 minutes, an engineer gave us a call. After a few minutes on the phone, the engineer asked, "What do you have the system plugged in to?" We responded, "Well, a wall plug in our lab." He then broke the news: "That system requires 208V to run." Now what? Off to Home Depot we went and grabbed some 12 gauge wire and breaker, and within an hour, we were installing Windows. Another Lab adventure for the books?

Breaker Panel Plug

Server Test Hardware Configuration

AMD
Motherboard: Tyan S2895
Memory: 4GB Kingston PC3200 ECC (2GB for Web benchmarks)
OS: Windows 2003 Enterprise/Windows 2003 Web edition (Web benchmarks)
RAID: LSI Logic 320-2 with 8 Seagate 15K Cheetahs in Raid 0

Intel
Memory: 4GB Infineon DDR2
OS: Windows 2003 Enterprise/Windows 2003 Web edition (Web benchmarks)
RAID: LSI Logic 320-2 with 8 Seagate 15K Cheetahs in Raid 0

The Lineup - Athlon 64 X2 Web Tests - FuseTalk .NET
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  • Jep4444 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    I don't like how you use the Opteron to give a rough estimation on the A64 X2 as their are other architectural changes between Opteron and A64

    That aside maybe AMD could bring out X2s using 256KB of cache per core to get slightly lower price points and atleast compete with the 830(3ghz)
    I doubt it'll be too bandwidth limited given AMD is selling Semprons with only 128KB of L2 cache
    Reply
  • KillerBob - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    It is usual to see that Anandtech favors the AMD, looks at the artificial tests, and not the real-world tests, where Intel wins out (as usual).

    In other tests itis pointed out the the PEE can be overclocked past 4GHz, in which case it'll kick everything's ass.
    Reply
  • KillerBob - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • dannybin1742 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    drool, i want one Reply
  • Doormat - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Typo P13: Intel's "975x" at bottom of page.

    The high price of the dual core opterons kinda puts me off. I was hoping for 2x the price of the single core, instead of 3.5x (I'm looking at 246 vs 270s). It looks like I'll be going single core (or just holding off) instead of dual core (at least until the end of the year and AMD gets price competition from Intel on the server DC front).

    The 3.5x doesn't even make sense from the yield standpoint. If AMD's yeilds are 70% (wild talking-out-of-my-ass guess, no real factual grounding in picking that number), then their dual core yields will only be 49% (70% for the first core, 70% for the second core). So out of a batch of 1000 chips, instead of 700 you only get 490. Thats 210 chips you need to make up for. If opterons have a Avg selling price of $500, then the "adjusted" selling price would be around $715, an increase of 43%, not 250%. Granted, if AMD's yields are higher, the numbers look better (from our perspective - lower prices), but if their yields are less, it looks really bad (if their yield was only 50%, they'd only get 25% yield on dual core, and would have to double price).

    I guess AMD is just trying to squeeze every dime they can out of this... hopefully that extra money goes to pay for Fab36 and more capacity.
    Reply
  • cbuchach - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Wow....Very impressive offering from AMD. I think the quote that sums it up best for me is: "you no longer have to make a performance decision between great overall performance or great media encoding performance, AMD delivers both with the Athlon 64 X2."

    I was very impressed with Intel dual core chips, but now I know that my next system will go back to be AMD-based. Overall the dual core Athlon64 should be killer.

    As for cost, yes it is expensive, but the performance is really phenomenal. I am sure that it too will come down.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    All hail teh X2! Reply
  • bob661 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    All I can say is.....WHOODOGGIE!!!! Reply
  • Brian23 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    ME WANTY!!! Reply
  • jamawass - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    quote: Despite AMD's lead in getting dual core server/workstation CPUs out to market, Intel has very little reason to worry from a market penetration standpoint. We've seen that even with a multi-year performance advantage, it is very tough for AMD to steal any significant business away from Intel, and we expect that the same will continue to be the case with the dual core Opteron. It's unfortunate for AMD that all of their hard work will amount to very little compared to what Intel is able to ship, but that has always been reality when it comes to the AMD/Intel competition."
    This statement should be qualified. The Rendering market is much more adventurous than the standard server market(didn't they use winxp-64 beta running on opterons to render SWIII?) and will continue to rapidly adopt opterons.There're tangible benefits (faster rendering, lower energy costs=$$$) in moving to opteron for rendering farms. Also more oems like supermicro and broadcom have embraced AMD which should result in much more rapid market penetration than 2 yrs ago.
    Reply

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