Socket-F vs. Woodcrest

We first started contacting AMD for a Socket-F platform a few weeks before its release date. Typically, when we receive a platform from AMD, it consists of a couple of CPUs, a main board and some memory. This time around AMD decided to send full platforms from a vendor called Colfax (one of AMD's solutions partners). Note that we used the plural of platform: AMD made a fairly bold move and sent a Woodcrest system as well. Both of the systems were configured identically: same case, power supply, hard drives, DVD-ROM and cooling (minus the CPU fans).

Click to enlarge
Of course any loyal Intel fan is going to cry foul, but rest assured we checked to see that there was no foul play here. The BIOS settings were configured as identically as possible, the fans were all running inside the case, etc. We've wanted to do this kind of comparison for awhile but lacked the equipment in the lab to create two identical systems. As we alluded to above, the only component that wasn't the same was the processor cooling. Intel's thermal design for most Xeon systems is an air duct that is fed by a hefty 6" fan on one side and vented out the rear of the case (see pictures on the next page). This usually produces a system that sounds like a miniature wind tunnel, at least for the server versions. There are of course a few other differences, but most of those relate to the platform: registered DDR2 vs. FB-DIMMs, different chipsets, and different motherboards were used, but that will always be the case.

What's new with Socket-F?

Socket-F isn't a huge technological leap for AMD; the most notable change is the move to DDR2 memory. Besides the new memory type however, Socket-F brings hardware virtualization acceleration and better power consumption. All of this is fabricated into a new 1207-pin LGA socket, similar to the LGA design of socket 775 only with more pins in the CPU socket. Here's a quick overview of the currently shipping 2-way Socket-F Opterons.

AMD Socket F Overview
Model Clock Power Consumption
2210 1.8GHz 95W
2212 2.0GHz 95W
2212 HE 2.0GHz 68W
2214 2.2GHz 95W
2214 HE 2.2GHz 68W
2216 2.4GHz 95W
2216 HE 2.4GHz 68W
2218 2.6GHz 95W
2220 SE 2.8GHz 119.2W

The Systems
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  • proteus7 - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Not sure how the conclusion that Socket-F wins is reached.
    True performance benchmarking can only occur with CPU as close as possible to 100%, and NO other benchmarks in the system. For a TPC-C style OLTP database workload for example, usually about 400+ HDDs would be required on a 4-core system to ensure this, and a lot more memory (16GB minimum would be realistic for 4-cores).

    In every benchmark posted, at full load, Woodcrest wins. If you try to spin "load points", "perf per watt", etc, it then muddies the waters.

    Finally, you should put a disclaimer that this test is for a very specific workload. The good news is that there was no deliberate attempt to skew the results towards AMD. If so, you would have picked a large OLAP, DSS, or Data Warehouse type workload, which take better advantage of Socket-Fs superior memory latency on out-of-cache workloads.

  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Actually, Woodcrest isn't the clear winner. It is faster, at a higher power draw, and there are reportedly situations where Opteron will still come out with a (sometimes significant) lead. We didn't test such situations here, but a "clear win" would be what we see on the desktop where Core 2 Duo is typically faster than any X2 processor while using less power - although the power situation is still somewhat up for debate.

    I know I worked in a data center for several years where we had at least 12 servers. I don't think any of those servers was running at more than about 25% capacity, so there are definitely companies that aren't going to care too much about performance at maximum load. Of course, it's kind of funny that the data center I worked at was a 100% Dell shop (at least for desktops, laptops, and non-UNIX servers), so all of the servers were running the Xeon DP/MP processors during a time where Opteron was clearly providing better performance and lower power requirements.
  • mlittl3 - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link


    I think the problem with many of these comments questioning the conclusions of the article is that not many people understand how enterprise level workstation and servers are bought and used. It would be nice if Anandtech did an article about some company that uses a lot of workstation and servers and go through their thought process when it comes to what hardware to buy. Then the article could go into how the servers manage workloads and what factors are important (performance, power, stability, etc.).

    Too many readers here think that a server cluster is bought as soon as new hardware is released and that these enterprise level IT professionals go to hardware review sites and see which hardware has a better 3dmark score. This is of course not the case.
  • Strunf - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - link

    I think it’s pretty common knowledge how companies get their systems, I mean after Intel owning so much with the crap they had, it’s pretty obvious that performance and power consumption are secondary... but articles have to stay objective because no one knows what the deals between companies and the OEMs really “hide”...

    “Too many readers here think that a server cluster is bought as soon as new hardware is released...”
    Actually I would say many server clusters are bought at the same time new hardware is released...
  • mino - Wednesday, December 20, 2006 - link

    "Actually I would say many server clusters are bought at the same time new hardware is released..."
    Yeah, they are. The purchase is mostly waiting for the certain speed-bump in architecture/design to appear...
  • chucky2 - Thursday, December 21, 2006 - link

    I work in IT as a PM at what is the probably now the largest telecomm in the US - not on a standards committee, purchaser, or operations person who actually sets the hardware up - and at least for the boxes that host the services my org cares for, I know the hardware folks don't like to see any one of them go over 50% CPU or RAM utilization, and that's simply because of failover.

    If a machine in a cluster goes down, the other machine(s) are expected to pick up that load and not incurr downtime...downtime is bad. You could have .003% downtime <i>just for one small but main part of IT (like mine) </i> for a <b>quarter</b> and that might equate into a million dollars lost.

    Hardware is not necessairly ordered when new hardware is fact, that's more than likely not the case. New hardware is not necessairly tested and proven hardware. Just because the parts folks (Intel, AMD, whoever) and the vendors (IBM, Sun, HP, whoever) are selling it, doesn't mean it stable, or at least proven to work for what a company is going to use it for. When the expectation is 100% uptime except for maintenance periods, you want your standards folks to have tested the stuff everyone in the company will be allowed to order...or at least have them looked over the changes to whatever the company standard is and say, OK, that's an acceptable upgrade, we're comfortable with that change.

    So, No, ordering the latest and greatest hardware when it comes out it not really the smart way to do things when you're talking about reliability...and the same goes for software...putting on the latest AIX or Oracle or JRE patch/version almost never happens. It's the same thing there, unless there's an absolute need for that specifc hardware/software, then you go with tried and true, because that's what's delivering <i>for sure</i>.

    The above is most likely why AMD had such a hard time breaking into the Enterprise sector...they had to prove that their hardware could get the job done as reliably as Intel, Sun, and IBM. Now that they have, hopefully the major Enterprise folks will give them more consideration...with as good as Operteron has been, they deserve it.

  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Are pages three and four supposed to have tables/graphs? I'm getting two paragraphs of text on each page using Firefox 2.0, and that's it. Seems like there'd be more under your testing methodology.
  • Jason Clark - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Yep, I was fixing something in the article and juggling pages around. Should be ok now.
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Still doesn't look right. Paragraph formatting is really off, and there's a couple of HTML tags showing. Makes it kind of hard to read.
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    That's on Page 3 btw. Page 4 now looks fine.

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