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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  • ceefka - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    So, would an nForce 3 250 board work with an A64 X2? Reply
  • smn198 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    #4 "I find it strange why AMD did not release <2.2GHz A64 X2s? Maybe due to manufacturing issues?"

    When you make a dual core CPU, a defect on one of them makes the whole lot worthless. I believe that to try and reduce this, they can increase yield by producing lower clocked parts
    Reply
  • L3p3rM355i4h - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    #9 you're dreamin' Theres no way that AMD can sell a 1.8ghz chip for sub-$200 when a frickin' venice is retailing for $179. A 1.8ghz chip would be upper $300 to lower $400s.

    But, damn the "X2" performs nicely. Just think, with a stable, higher performing motherboard with decent timings how much better it would get.
    Reply
  • Shinei - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Nice, dual-core. AMD's going to be hurt badly by the lack of volume on their X2 units, though, considering that Intel's got the money to post minor losses on each chip sold just to regain their marketshare. I'm surprised AMD hasn't tapped IBM to give them one or two 65nm fabs to prepare for the A64X2 launch later this year... Reply
  • AnnihilatorX - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    hm hope fab36 would increaswe production capacity of AMD and lower the cost down a bit Reply
  • blckgrffn - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Awesome...I wish we could have seen a 4 socket 8 processor system rocking out with those four way xeons though, that would really illustrates some differences ;)

    I agree with the previous sentiment on the x2's, I hope they bring out a sub $200 1.8 ghz or so model. I will be sticking this in my desktop box, not my gaming box, so if they can't bring anything out under $200 I will probably have to go with Intel. Boo for that ;)

    Nat
    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    It's a wonderful article Anand, always love yours.. very in-depth But you're forgetting mem timings??? Arr.:) Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Slobber:P Reply
  • blackbrrd - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    #4 AMD probably wants you to buy their single core cpus instead, as they are much cheaper to produce and easier to produce in quantities. AMD would probably have problems delievering a lower cost dual core in quantities .

    Who doesn't drewl for a A64 X2 after seeing this review??? I certainly do.

    The dual core intel wouldn't be so bad either, except for the amount of heat it produces off.
    Reply
  • filterxg - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Nice article. AMD has obviously awoken a sleeping giant, and Intel is fighting back on the pricing front. Hopefully the gamble that AMD single cores can hold their own versus Intel Duallies is true on the mid-low end (at least for the near future). I won't be buying an Intel chip anytime soon (unless I need a laptop).

    Either way I figure I got 2.5 years before I need a dualcore, and by then who knows. So bravo to both companies for this innovation.
    Reply

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