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

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 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

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

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


View All Comments

  • cHodAXUK - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Anand, Jason and Ross.. hell of a job guys, you have out done yourselves. As for the X2 4400+ preview results, holy shit is all I can say, better than I expected and those scores are WITHOUT the aid of an NCQ enabled drive. The cost is high, very high infact but the X2 just scales so much better than the equivelent Intel. All I want to see now is an X2 4400+ with the FSB overclocked to DDR500 speeds, I am really interested to see how much that extra 1gb/s+ of bandwidth helps a dual core setup. Perhaps that is something you can look into for us please Anand and Co? T.I.A. ;) Reply
  • Darth Farter - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Current Intel Price List(3)

    Price in
    1,000 unit
    Performance Processors quantities

    64-bit Intel Xeon processor MP 3.33 GHz with 8 MB L3 cache $3692
    64-bit Intel Xeon processor MP 3.00 GHz with 8 MB L3 cache $1980
    64-bit Intel Xeon processor MP 2.83 GHz with 4 MB L3 cache $1177

    Value Processors

    64-bit Intel Xeon processor MP 3.66 GHz with 1 MB L2 cache $963
    64-bit Intel Xeon processor MP 3.16 GHz with 1 MB L2 cache $722

    Intel's not too shabby with pricing either... ;)

    btw Dual OPTERON vs 4way(?) XEON @ techreport
  • Groovester - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    65- Recommend you reread "A Look at AMD's Dual Core Architecture" page. The fact that AMD's Athlon64 and X2 memory controllers are on-die gives it a leg up on Intel's Pentium D's. On the X2, the communication between the two cores doesn't have to traverse the external FSB. Reply
  • bob661 - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    WHOODOGGIE!!! Reply
  • Quanticles - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    68 - he did the best he could, but the point is the same... lol. we're going to see some pretty amazing preformance from the real thing Reply
  • Son of a N00b - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    hit me up with one of these, four vid cards, some headphones and a 24' screen for hours of gaming bliss....w00t!

    anyway i can actually see also a game suddenly coming out written for dual core, with the developers pulling something outta their collective a$$'s....

    I'll wait for these to get a bit more refined though and the pwnage is clear that a dual core offers total uberness...

    good article anand...almost to complete lol...i actually have to save some time in my day to read em....gj!
  • fishbits - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    From the article: "Although the use of ECC memory and a workstation motherboard would inevitably mean that performance will be slower than what will be when the real Athlon 64 X2s launch, its close enough to get a good idea of the competitiveness of the Athlon 64 X2."

    Anand didn't "cripple" or "misrepresent" anything. He got as close as he could with the materials available to him, and made it clear that some liberties/extrapolation would be required.

    However, it does look promising that the X2 will perform even better than projected today. Just as Anand said up front.
  • KillerBob - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    You are right Griswold, and it was in these tests the Intel won the race;) Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    Expect at least 15% more performance when real X2 is released.

    Anand crippled/misrepresented it by running a 175 in his tests... Which has ECC memory, 2T, and my guess is 3-3-3 (most all ECC ram is 3-3-3 since he does'nt say I must go with the odds).

    Talk about hamstringing a A64. Anands own tests show just how crippleing 2T is for A64 upwards of 10% alone less performance. I've shown 3-3-3 vs 2-2-2 to be signifigant in my mem matrix tread about 5% since A64's love low latency. ECC knocks out about 3-5% more performance due to extra wait state. Would the "real" X2 debuting at 18% faster be unfair?? I don't think so when paired with desktop memory.

    It's going to get REAL ugly on the desktop for Team Blue no matter how you slice the numbers when a real live X2 comes with un-buffered mem, LL and 1T since Intel already loses to a unadventurous server chip right now.
  • Fricardo - Thursday, April 21, 2005 - link

    64 - I'd like to know the same. I definitely won't buy a processor for more than 250, no matter what the performance is. I'm sure they'll drop eventually, but I wonder if that'll happen before 939 is completely obsolete and I have to buy an M2 mobo anyways...

    Also, something I've been wondering: if dual core does have such an impressive effect on desktop performance and future programs will be multithreaded to take advantage of dual core, how come nobody ever talks about making multi-socket desktop boards? A dual-939 setup with a couple of $120 OC'd Winnie's would be just as fast as the X-2 and a heck of a lot cheaper. Or you could slap a couple of X-2's in there when they actually come out and have sick performance.

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