To help summarize the current situation in the server CPU market, we have drawn up a comparison table of the performance we have measured so far. We'll compare the new Interlagos Opteron 6276 against the outgoing Opteron 6174 as well as teh Xeon X5650.

  Opteron 6276 vs.
Opteron 6174
Opteron 6276 vs.
Xeon X5650
ESXi + Linux -1% -2%
ESXi + Windows = +3%
Cinebench +2% +9%
3DS Max 2012 (iRay) -9% to + 4% -10% to +3%
Maxwell Render +4% +6%
Blender -4% -24%
Encryption/Decryption AES +265% / +275% +2% / +7%
Encryption/Decryption Twofish/Serpent +25% / +25% 31% / 46%
Compression/decompression +10% / +10% -33%/ +22%

Let us first discuss the virtualization scene, the most important market. Unfortunately, with the current power management in ESXi, we are not satisfied with the Performance/watt ratio of the Opteron 6276. The Xeon needs up to 25% less energy and performs slightly better. So if performance/watt is your first priority, we think the current Xeons are your best option.

The Opteron 6276 offers a better performance per dollar ratio. It delivers the performance of $1000 Xeon (X5650) at $800. Add to this that the G34 based servers are typically less expensive than their Intel LGA 1366 counterparts and the price bonus for the new Opteron grows. If performance/dollar is your first priority, we think the Opteron 6276 is an attractive alternative.

And then there is Windows Server 2008 R2. Typically we found that under heavy load (benchmarking at 85-100% CPU load) the power consumption was between 3% (integer) to 7% (FP) higher on the Opteron 6276 than on the Xeons and Opteron 6100, a lot better than under ESXi. Add to this the fact that the new Opteron energy usage at low load is excellent and you understand that we feel that there is no reason to go for the Opteron 6100 anymore. Again, AMD still understands that it should price its CPUs more attractive than the competition, so from the price/performance/watt point of view, the Opteron 6276 is a good cost effective alternative to the Xeon...on the condition that you enable the "high performance" policy and that AMD keeps the price delta the same in the coming months.

That is the good news. We cannot help but to feel a bit disappointed too. AMD promised us (in 2009/2010) that the Opteron 6200 would be significantly faster than the 6100: "unprecedented server performance gains". That is somewhat the case if you recompile your software with the latest and greatest optimized compiler as AMD's own SPEC CINT (+19%), CFP 2006 (+11%) and Linpack benchmarks (+32%) show.

One of the real advantages of a new processor architecture (prime examples where the K7 and K8) is if it performs well in older software too, without requiring a recompile. For some people of the HPC world, recompiling is acceptable and common, but for everybody else (that is probably >95% of the market!), it's best if existing binaries run faster. Administrators generally are not going to upgrade and recompile their software just to make better use of a new server CPU. Hopefully AMD's engineers have been looking into improving the legacy software performance of their latest chip the last few months, because it could use some help.

On the other side of the coin, it is clear that some of the excellent features of the new Opteron are not leveraged by the current software base. The deeper sleep and more advanced core gating is not working to its full potential, and the current operating systems frequently don't appear to know how to get the best from Turbo Core. The clock can be boosted by 39% when half of the cores are active, but an 18% boost was the best we saw (in a single-threaded app!). Simply turning the right knobs gave some tangible power savings (see ESXi) and some impressive performance improvements (see Windows Server 2008).

In short, we're going to need to do some additional testing and take this server out for another test drive, and we will. Stay tuned for a follow-up article as we investigate other options for improving performance.

Other Tests: TrueCrypt and 7-Zip


View All Comments

  • mino - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    IT had most likely to do with you running it on NetBurst (judging by no VT-X moniker).

    As much to do with VT-X as with a crappy CPU ... wiht bus architecture ah, thank god they are dead.
  • JustTheFacts - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Please explain why there is no comparison between the latest AMD processors to Intel's flagship two-way server processors: the Intel Westmere-EX e7-28xx processor family?

    Lest you forgot about them, you can find your own benchmarks of this flagship Intel processor here:

    Take the gloves off and compare flagship against flagship please, and then scale the results to reflect the price differece if you have to, but there's no good reason not to compare them that I can see. Thanks.
  • duploxxx - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Westmere EX 2sockets is dead, will be killed by own intel platform called romley which will have 2p and 4p.

    it was a stupid platform from the start and overrated by sales/consultants with there so called huge memory support.
  • aka_Warlock - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    I think you should have done a more thorough VM test than you did. 64GB RAM?
    We all know single threaded performance is weak, but I still feel the server are underutilized in your test.

    These CPU's are screaming heavy multi threading workloads. Many VM's. Many vCPU's.

    What would the performance be if you had, say, at least 192GB of RAM and 50 (maybe more) VM's on it?

    And offcourse, storage should not be a bottleneck.

    I think this is where his 8modules/16threads cpu would shine.
    A dual socket rack/blade. 16modules/32 threads.
    Loads of RAM and a bounch of VM's.
  • iwod - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    It is power hungry, isn't any better then Intel, and it is only slightly cheaper, at the cost of higher electricity bill.

    So unless with some software optimization that magically show AMD is good at something, i think they are pretty much doomed.

    It is like Pentium 4, except Intel can afford making one or two mistakes, but not with AMD.
  • mino - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Then the article served its purpose well. Reply
  • SunLord - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    So is the AMD system running 8GB DDR3-1600 DIMMS or 4GB DDR3-1333? Because you list the same DDR3-1333 model for both systems and if the Server supports 16 DIMMs well 16*4 is 64GB Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Copy and paste error, Fixed. We used DDR-3 1600 (Samsung) Reply
  • Johnmcl7 - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    I have wondered about this, with more cores per socket and virtualisation (organising new set of servers and buying far less hardware for the same functionality) so I'd have thought in total less server hardware is being purchased. Clearly that isn't the case though, is the money made back from more expensive servers?

  • bruce24 - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    While sure which each new generation of server you need much less hardware to do the same amount of work, however worldwide people are looking for servers to do much more work. Each year companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple add much more computing power than they could get by refreshing their current servers. Reply

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