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).

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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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  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Fixed 3 as well, thanks.
  • MartinT - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    I don't like tests that rely on one tested party to supply both their own and their competitor's systems. Those situations are prone to favorable choice of components and outright manipulation much beyond the BIOS settings you claim to have checked.

    The very least you could do would be to ask for the competitor to supply their own system for comparison.

    Also, while I realize that AMD is kinda desperate to find any advantage, their current "Best CPU at doing nothing."-push seems rather convoluted, IMHO.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    If you ask each vendor to supply a system, you will never get anywhere near "equivalent" configurations. The purpose of this article is to show that there are a lot of companies that will be fine with their current Opteron systems, and if you are more interested in saving power (because you know your server won't be run at capacity) Opteron does very well. Obviously, there are plenty of areas where Woodcrest (and now Clovertown) are better, and we've covered some of those areas in the past.

    What server is best? That depends largely on the intended use, which is hardly surprising. I've heard that Opterons do especially well in virtual server environments, for example, easily surpassing Intel's current best. I'd love to see some concrete, independent testing of that sort of thing, but obviously figuring out exactly how to benchmark such servers is difficult at best.
  • MartinT - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    I'm not sure you understood my point, which was that by sourcing an Intel system from AMD, AMD had full control over not just their own system, but its competitor, too, down to even the specific CPUs they sent.

    Now that wouldn't be too bad if it was a performance test, these hardly vary much amongst samples from the same product lines, but as power consumption enters the mix, and in fact takes center-stage here, system choices become paramount to the outcome.

    Maybe I'm too big a cynic, and maybe what I allege is far from true, but under the specific circumstances of this review, I suspect that AMD's competitive performance analysis team played a major role in what hardware actually ended up in your hands.
    (i.e. Not just are the memory configs and motherboards probably carefully chosen to support the intended message, the Opteron and Xeon CPUs might also have been sampled accordingly. And from your conclusion, they've done their job well, apparently!)

    Would an off-the-shelf Opteron system produce the same results your review unit did? I don't know. Would the outcome have changed if the Intel Xeon system wasn't built to the specs of its main competitor? I don't know. But I'd be much more willing to accept the conclusion if either (a) both competitors supplied their entries themselves or (b) both units were anonymously bought from a respected OEM.

    PS: Kudos to the AMD marketing team, too, as they managed to seed at least two of these articles and so far got their message across, and only a couple of days before Christmas, too, virtually ensuring full frontpage exposure for the better part of three weeks.
  • mino - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    I cannot say for AT, but these numbers are reasonable and pretty much corespond to our own observations.

    Overall, the review says the two - Opteron 2000 and Xeon 5100 are pretty evenly matched. And AFAIK this is the opinion of pretty much every serious IT magizine or preffesional.

    BTW we had IBM tech guys on visit and they had similar view of the situation. 5100 slightly better clock/clock to 2000 in most generla tasks while Opteron ruling the roost on heavily loaded virtualized machines.

    From the long-term perspective IMHO Opteron is far better choice if only for the possible upgrade to K8L. Woodcrest platform has no such option available. And not, Clovertown is NOT a seriou contender for most workloads. It would yield even to hypothetical Quad-K8 not to mention K8L.
  • WarpNine - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Please read this review ( I think same review as this one )">

    Very different conclusion??
  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    I think the reviews basically say the same thing in different ways. We are not saying Opteron is 100% the clear winner here, merely that it can still be very useful and fulfills a market need. For a lot of companies, service and support will be at least as important as power and performance, though - which is why plenty of businesses ran NetBurst servers even when Opteron was clearly faster and more power efficient. For companies that switched to Opterons, it's going to take more than a minor performance advantage (in some cases) to get them to change back. At least, that would make sense to me.

    Companies that need absolute maximum performance will of course be looking at Clovertown configurations (or perhaps even waiting for 4S quad core - is that out yet?)
  • photoguy99 - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    The conclusion of this article seems slanted - Did AMD suggest specifically that you look into "low end performance per watt"? Be honest, they planted the seed, right?

    1) Please post a link to the last article where AT's conclusion was overall this favorable to the top end performance loser. Please, we're waiting...

    2) Why should the Intel system not be quad-core? Just because AMD doesn't have it yet? They even work in the same socket!

    3) How can you justify saying AMD did "very well", and there's no Intel upgrade benefit unless you "routinely run your servers near capacity", when Intel quad core would have completely invalidated the results for performance per watt at nearly all levels?

    Full disclosure, no axe to grind: I have praised previous AT articles because they are usually great. I currently own AMD as my primary system.

    This article just doesn't smell right - too much vendor influence.

  • Jason Clark - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Have you not read anything we've posted in the last few months?">Woodcrest article

    We've been touting performance / watt for months. You most certainly don't compare a quad core (8-way) setup to a 4-way and call that fair :) We have a Clovertown article on the way, it's going to include an 8-way socket-F system.

  • Lifted - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    I agree, to an extent. I just order some DL380G5's and they current fastest CPU point for quad core CPU's is 1.86GHz. Comparing 8 cores at 1.86 vs 4 cores at 3.0 starts to get difficult as it it really depends on the application in use on that system. Since this article seems to be more of a comparison of CPU architectures, the systems and CPU's used in the test seem appropriate. I think it's smart to wait until AMD has quad core out and compare apples to apples. The folks currently ordering quad core Intel systems (like me) would likely not be interested in a dual core Intel or AMD system as the task dictates the hardware, and with the systems I'm using quad cores in I simply don't need the speed, just more cores.

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