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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  • Phlargo - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Sounds like computing could change a lot in the next 6 months.

    I can't wait to get my hands on a dual core chip - that type of multitasking gaming performance is what I've been waiting for... 92% of unfettered performance during Doom3? That's unbelievable.
    Reply
  • manno - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Another thing to consider is that the 939, and 940 Dual Cores work with old mobos. so that saves upgraders ~$100 for the mobo (I have no clue what PD mobo's are going to cost) plus the cost of DDR2 ~$100 for 512MB, not true if you're going with the PD. So if you own a 939 a 2.8 PD will realy cost you ~$441, 3.0 -$516, 3.2 ~$730.
    Throw that out the window if you're starting from scratch however.
    Reply
  • manno - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Great review very detailed, I have one caveat, and I should preface it with the fact that I own 4 systems, and all of them have Athlon 64's or XP's.

    That being said your "Multitasking Scenario 2: File Compression" Seems to be misleading, and identifies the A64 as the processor of choice in the 2nd portion of the analysis.

    Maybe I'm wrong but from what I understand with how the test was performed you archived the file, got the amount of time it took to archive the file "x" for instance, and then figured out how many emails got imported in time "x" now because some processors took longer to create the archive than others they had more time to import emails. so in order to make this data more reflective of the performance of each processor you need to divide the number of emails imported by "x", and get e/s. The modified graph should be

    PD 3.2 =19124/5.08 or 3764.57 e/s
    A64 X2 =21687/6.25 or 3469.92 e/s
    PEE 3.2 =16875/6.65 or 2537.59 e/s
    AFX 55 = 3800/5.88 or 646.26 e/s

    These corrected numbers show that at least in this test the PD 3.2 is the winner by ~8%

    -manno
    Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    At that prices, most of the users really won't need their current mainboards for new dual core processors. I would prefer to have lower priced single core than that prices on dual core. Reply
  • blckgrffn - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    We are talking about by this fall, folks. And a 90nm Dual core still uses LESS die than 2 2800+ put together because it is on a manufacturing smaller process, especially if they stick to a 512k cache which is obviously the sweet spot. By this fall I expect that we will see sub $200 dual cores from Intel to squeeze AMD on the desktop market. What is a real shame is that AMD doesn't have suffcient fabs to handle potential demand.

    For those of you who got all hot in your pants and said I can't buy a sub $200 dual core Intel right now, it is just as true that I can't buy one it all! ;P Chill!
    Reply
  • PeteRoy - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Impressive. Reply
  • josedawg - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Am I mistaken in thinking that AMD was throwing out their desktop dualcore line (A64 X2) in 2006? What prompted their earlier release of them? Was it the demand for desktop dualcore, pressure from Intel stealing desktop dualcore market, or excellent manufacturing at the AMD plants? Reply
  • KeithDust2000 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    blckgrffn, "so if they can't bring anything out under $200 I will probably have to go with Intel. Boo for that ;) "

    INTEL doesn´t have one under $200 either.
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    #14... all socket 939 motherboards will support the X2 with a BIOS upgdate. Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    #9 They'd have to release a 1.6 @ $240 to accurately compete with Intels slowness in Pentium D's starting at $241. Sorry not gonna happen. AMD not for budget shoppers anymore but those interested in performance. Want the best? Pay the price. Or substandard CPU at a discount?

    I can see a 1.8 for about $250 though however no way you're going to get into DC for less than $200.
    Reply

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