The Opteron 6276: a closer lookby Johan De Gelas on February 9, 2012 6:00 AM EST
SQL Server 2008 Enterprise R2
We have been using the Flemish/Dutch web 2.0 website Nieuws.be for some time. 99% of the loads on the database are selects and about 5% of them are stored procedures. You can find a more detailed description here.
We have improved our testing methodology and updated the SQL Server version, so the results are no longer comparable with previous results. We used to publish the highest throughput possible, but we have found that it is not entirely fair. At the highest throughput, there was a very small (<1%) percentage of connection errors (client side timeouts), but those timeouts could make the results vary by about 5-10%. A better configured .NET data provider improved this situation. We adapted the .Net data provider to support the same timeout as the MS SQL Server standard timeout (60s), and we now meticulously scan our logs for errors and discard all results that have any error rates.
Since turbo modes are disabled in the "Balanced" Power management policy and we want to evaluate both power and performance, we tested with both the "Balanced" and "High Performance" power management policies.
We have reported this before: when it comes to pure OLAP MS SQL server throughput, the Opteron Magny-Cours is unbeatable. Notice that both the Xeon and the new Opteron 6276 can hardly leverage Turbo (e.g. "High Performance" mode) even though both Intel and AMD talk about the potential to run at higher clockspeeds even when all cores are active. While this integer intensive workload comes nowhere close to consuming what a Linpack run would require, the TDP headroom is no longer there to enable a clockspeed boost.
Looking at the results, the Opteron 6276 disappoints somewhat as it is not capable of outperforming its older brother. However, it performs relatively close to the Xeon and is thus far from a dud.
At maximum CPU load, the response times paint a very similar picture as the throughput numbers:
When we look at the response times, the Opteron 6174's leadership is confirmed and emphasized. The fact that a 16-cluster 2.3GHz Opteron offers 30% more throughput and twice as fast response times as its 8-cluster 3GHz brother is a clear testimony to the excellent scaling capabilities of SQL server.
Since performance/watt is an extremely important metric, we follow up with a power measurement:
There's no doubt about it: the Opteron 6174 is the performance/watt champion in this particular task.
This is the classical way to evaluate server performance, but should you base your purchase on these numbers alone? Frankly, no. The 100% full load evaluation is incomplete, and it's not related to the real world way of using a database. It just shows what your servers can spit out when running at their maximum, a situation most people either try to avoid or never see as so many other bottlenecks (I/O, lock contention) kick in before you see 100% CPU utilization. It is the best method to evaluate HPC machines, but a short-sighted method for almost any server application (web, database, etc.).
In other words, server benchmarks at 100% are just one datapoint, but we should test at lower concurrencies as well. That is why we simulated 40, 80, 100, 125, 200, 300, 400, 600 and 800 users with our vApus stress testing client. Each user starts a query with between 900 and 1100 ms "thinking time" (so on average 1 second). At 600 and 800 users, our servers achieve their maximum throughput, but how do these servers handle "low" and "midrange" workloads? Let us see what happened when we tested with everyday "normal" loads.