AMD Dual Core Opteron vs. Intel Dual Core Xeon

It's been a rough road for the Intel Xeon since AMD introduced the Opteron. AMD's market share is climbing, and in a complete role reversal of years gone by, AMD is reported to have 81.5% of the US retail PC market with Intel sitting at 18.5%. In the server space (lower volume, higher profit) AMD is now sitting at over 14%, up 5% from 2004. There is no question that the fight is fierce between the two processor giants: recently AMD hired one of Intel's high ranking Itanium designers.

While the past few years haven't been Intel's best, it certainly doesn't mean that the future will carry on that trend. Intel's next generation products are in development, and on paper look quite promising. Performance per Watt is a key focus for Intel and is something the industry is in dire need of. As we alluded to in a previous article, power consumption is on everyone's mind. Opteron is not only the most scalable enterprise processor today, but it's also the most efficient. With a dual socket Opteron system using up to 40% less power than Intel's current Bensley systems, there is a lot of room for improvement.

While it seems like AMD can sit back, relax and enjoy the growth curve, that wouldn't be a wise move. Intel is not going to take this for much longer - they can't. It's clear Intel is banking heavily on the last two quarters of the year, and the next generation products have to perform and win back mind and market share. Woodcrest and Kentsfield are no secret, and if they live up to expectations, the tables could turn. Intel is already competitive with Opteron performance in dual processor configurations with the soon to be released Bensley platform. With a reduction in power consumption Q4 of 2006 will be interesting to say the least.

Technology Outlook
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  • coldpower27 - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link

    At least then by the time you do replace your machines hopefully Intel will be more competitive in this space Reply
  • Anemone - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link

    Honestly it doesn't hurt to bring the point home again and again about Opteron. Those making buying decisions who are still stuck on Intel only solutions need the truth laid out for them regularly and repeatedly, imo. Thank you for doing that, because the current Intel solutions are a waste of money, and I hate that the most of all.

    :)
    Reply
  • johnzo - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link

    Are your test result comments correct? ie DVD Store Test, should the AMD lead be 40% not 29% ?
    AMD has 8853 more orders, which is 40% more than 21782.The same error (?) goes for the other percentages mentioned.
    If I am wrong please forgive somebody with an old brain !
    Reply
  • Jason Clark - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link

    You are correct, my mistake. This is fixed. Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link

    Right, using funky-maths, if a 2.6GHz Conroe is 20% faster than a 2.8GHz X2.
    And this 8-core 2.6GHz (?) Opteron system is 40% faster than a 3GHz 8-core Xeon.
    And the issue is scalability, i.e., the same problem will exist for Woodcrest.
    However Woodcrest will be 3GHz, but this will only be useful for cache-bound tasks because of the scalability problems (expect all the Intel biased websites to only benchmark Woodcrest with this type of task). Maybe Opteron will be dual-core 3GHz by then...

    Anyway I can't conclude anything without making huge vast leaps of guesswork, but yes, it will be very close later this year, but if Woodcrest can't beat Opteron because of the platform limitations then there will be little to no incentive to switch back from buying Opteron based servers to Intel based servers (for the companies that have switched to AMD), apart from power consumption.

    However it means Intel will stop losing customers to AMD in the server space, if the performance and power consumption issues are addressed. By no means do I see AMD losing much of their gained marketshare however (and by Q4 it will be higher than now I'm sure).
    Reply
  • peternelson - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link


    If power consumption is your concern, then AMD offer reduced power versions of Opteron chips (eg the HE models) at increased cost. When they can migrate to 65nm process, we should see even better power economy.
    Reply
  • Furen - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link

    Here's what I think will happen. AMD will get a run for its money on the single-socket and dual-socket arenas (since dual-FSB pretty much keeps the FSB from being too limiting) but once you scale higher AMD will once again rule the roost. I also think that quad-core will be better on AMD's architecture, too, since throwing 4 Conroe/Woodcrest cores on a single FSB (266MHz I'd expect, though I suppose it could be 333) will give these cores a huge performance hit, more so in MP configurations (just thinking about the cache-coherency traffic for 8 cores scares me) Reply
  • coldpower27 - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link

    Maybe, but it's hard to say at this point, how low FSB speed will affect Core Architecture, plus this is the Xeon MP space, where it won't be transistioning to Core Architecture for sometime until Q1 2007 earliest from what I believe with the Clovertown MP/Tigerton Core, I don't think there is a Woodcrest equivalent for this space.

    I expect AMD to have the "FSB" advantage in 4-8 way situations yes, however this may or may not translate to a performance crown for AMD.

    Thoug I think it's pretty safe for Intel that they can take back the Xeon DP space with Woodcrest, and DIB.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link

    I think you need to remember a couple of things. First, Woodcrest is based off of the next-generation Core architecture. Power and performance characteristics will be completely different from the current NetBurst chips. Second, Woodcrest will also have a 1333 MHz front side bus -- twice as fast as the server benchmarked here. Finally, and I could be wrong on this, but I think Intel is looking at one shared front side bus for every two sockets, and they could potentially move to one front side bus for each socket.

    That last idea would make sense for quad-core. And speaking of quad core, that's such a significant change that again it's almost impossible to predict at this stage. I mean, we don't even really know how AMD or Intel are going to build their quad core packages. Are we talking a single die, or will they have multiple dice on a package? Will Intel change the way the dice communicate with each other?

    Of course, none of this things means that Intel will come out on top, but there are enough significant changes that we can't declare a victor at this point. Also, large L3 caches can indeed help server work. Otherwise, why would IBM even make a POWER5 chip with 128 MB of L3 cache? Adding tons of cache to a desktop system rarely helps, but enterprise servers are completely different beast.

    At the very least, things should get interesting later this year. :-)
    Reply
  • Furen - Monday, April 24, 2006 - link

    You are indeed correct.

    In the DVD store test the AMD system is indeed 40% faster than the Intel system, but the Intel system is 30% slower than the AMD one. He seems to have chosen the AMD scores as the reference but incorrectly says that AMD is 30% faster instead of saying that Intel is 30% slower.
    Reply

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