Visit with Intel

For the past two years Intel has been holding workshops in Oregon, where they invite a few of the hardware sites to view their upcoming technology. In May of this year, AnandTech made their way up to Oregon to have a look at Woodcrest. While we were there we were presented with the normal marketing hoorah, what product launch is without that? But we also had some quite interesting presentations like Virtualization, and where Intel sees that market going (it's going sky-high for those that haven't been keeping up with it).

While in Oregon, we also took a look at a running Clovertown machine. Clovertown is the code name for Intel's quad-core chip, which is coming out in early 2007. It will be a drop-in part to most Woodcrest systems, running at 1066MHz FSB. How's that for upgradeability: 4-way to 8-way in under 20 minutes (your mileage may vary).

The Birth of a New King

Out with the old, and in with the new (or so they say). In April of 2003, AMD launched their Opteron enterprise microprocessor. Since then, Opteron has been steadily chewing into Intel's server market share. To think that Intel was not going to re-tool would have been naïve, although it did take Intel a long time. Not only did they produce what we think is the best two socket server processor on the market today, but they have quad-core up their sleeve and it will most likely release before AMD has an answer to Woodcrest. We already took a look at Woodcrest running on Linux, and we're ready to follow up with some analysis of Windows Server performance.

Woodcrest will share the Bensley platform with Dempsey, although we suspect Dempsey will fade away once Woodcrest parts are shipping in volume. Dempsey may have competed in terms of performance, but power consumption was not even in the same ball-park thanks to Woodcrest's new Core micro-architecture. The new processor features a 4MB L2 cache shared between each of its two cores and a 1333MHz Dual-Independent Bus architecture. Clock speeds for the Woodcrest launch will start at 1.6GHz and top out at 3.0GHz, and power consumption for the parts will range from 65W to 85W for the top bin part (3.0Ghz). The lower clocked 1.6GHz & 1.86GHz parts will run at 1066MHz FSB while the 2.0-3.0GHz parts will run at 1333MHz FSB. Intel also plans to ship a 40W version of the chip later this year that will run at 2.33GHz.

Architecture Summary


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  • Lonyo - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    What's the fastest Opteron dual core CPU you can buy?
    What's the fastest Woodcrest CPU that will be released?

    AMD don't make anything faster than 2.6GHz, so it doesn't really matter what speed Intel have to be at to beat it, they beat it with their top end part. And the Opteron is nearing its end (at 90nm), Woodcrest is new, so it will go faster probably, same as 65nm Opterons will go faster.

    Woodcrest is not behind Opteron, it is better per watt, and the high end Woodcrest beats the high end Opteron. Enough said. Whether Intel is clock for clock better or not still doesn't matter. They are better, and if they are not better clock for clock, it doesn't seem to matter because, again, they have higher clocks.
  • Spoonbender - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    "What's the fastest Woodcrest CPU that will be released? "

    Umm.... None?
    Does that mean AMD beats Intel by an infinite margin then?
    True, if Intel has a 3ghz part out, and AMD only has 2.6, then it makes sense to compare these two.
    But for now, let's just keep in mind that Intel doesn't have a 3ghz part out. They don't have a 2.6GHz part either. We are still comparing an unreleased product to one that has been out for a while.
  • Cooler - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    Their on new egg right now...">
  • xtremejack - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    You should note the way the two processors are compared here. Both are dual-CPU systems. Intel's FSB based system architecture means lower system bandwidth than AMD's DirectConnect architecture. The Opteron's have an on-die memory controller and a point-to-point interconnect. I am sure if you put Woodcrest on a Paxville system, you would see significantly worse performance. The 3.0Ghz Woodcrest is probably capable of a bit more performance, but the lower bandwidth FSB does not help it reach its full potential. Also coupled with the fact that FB-DIMMS have more latency than standard DDR2 means the Woodcrest isn't at a serious advantage compared to the Opteron system.

    Bottom-line system performance for the Woodcrest processor is still 5-20% better than Opteron. But thats way better than being 30% lower during Paxville days.
    Now Conroe does not have all these complications that Woodcrest has, thats why you may see better performance advantage, also since it is a single-CPU solution, the system architecture is much simpler.
  • swtethan - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    how many people running servers are going to overclock their system? :D Reply
  • fitten - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    Zero. I'd fire any IT person on the spot if I found out they had overclocked a production server. Reply
  • FesterOZ - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    I find this article somewhat surprising in tone. My company is a Fortune 500 and a big Dell shop so we have had access to Woodcrest workstations and servers for testing for a while. We have also tested these vs HP 9300 Athlon based Workstations and vs Sun x4100 servers and HP DL385s. Based on our tests which involve business applications, trading applications, etc., the performance of Woodcrest vs the Athlons is slightly better (about 5-10%). Nothing to really rave about, especially when its the latest Intel designs on 65nm. This actually disappointed our in-house Dell groupies, especially since they were comparing the top of the line new CPU design from Intel vs AMD's older platform. As a result we are moving away from Dell simply because they do not offer choice of CPU's at the moment and into HP's world, with our first purchase being 3 full chassis of AMD blade servers.

    IMHO, its now a two baron world with a missing king, each with strenghts and weaknesses.

  • Kiijibari - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    >IMHO, its now a two baron world with a missing king, each with strenghts and weaknesses.

    Yes I back that opinion.
    Woodcrest is hampered by its FBDs. While it delivers much better bandwidth, it has worse latencies. Furthermore the 4 MB L2 cache & Core2 prefetch does not help that much in a multithreaded server environment, than in the average desktop application area.

    What I want to say is, that the performance difference between Conroe/Athlon64 will be bigger than that between Woodcrest/Opteron.

    First "tests"( I was told by an administrator of a huge financal institute) also showed a Woodcrest performace lack with gcc compiled 64bit applications. Are some of your applications 64bit, too ? It would be interesting, to get more 64bit statments. For some reason, there are none from Intel so far ...


  • Spoonbender - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    Yes, I've been wondering about 64-bit performance too. Intel hasn't mentioned it with a word, but I hope they've made a decent implementation this time around. Reply
  • duploxxx - Thursday, July 13, 2006 - link

    no they didn't, still the same as in the Netburst. some small 64bit testing has been done on XS forums seeing a core architecture gaining 17-18% performance on a 64bit os + program like 64bit cinebench. the opty 940 gained 31-38%

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