Energy and Pricing

Unfortunately, accurately and fairly comparing energy consumption at the system level between the S822L and other systems wasn't something we were able to do, as there were quite a few differences in the hardware configuration. For example, the IBM S822L had two SAS controllers and we had no idea how power hungry that chip under the copper heatsink was. Still there is no doubt that the dual CPU system is by far the most important power consumer when the server system is under load. In case of the IBM system, the Centaur chips will take their fair share too, but those chips are not optional. So we can only get a very rough idea how the power consumption compares.

Xeon E5 299 v3/POWER8 Comparison (System)
Feature 2x Xeon E5-2699v3 2x IBM POWER8 3.4 10c
IBM S822L
Idle 110-120W 360-380W

Running NAMD (FP)


540-560W

700-740W
Running 7-zip (Integer)

300-350W


780-800W

The Haswell core was engineered for mobile use, and there is no denying that Intel's engineers are masters at saving power at low load.


The mightly POWER8 is cooled by a huge heatsink

IBM's POWER8 has pretty advanced power management, as besides p-states, power gating cores and the associated L3-cache should be possible. However, it seems that these features were not enabled out-of-the box for some reason as idle power was quite high. To be fair, we spent much more time on getting our software ported and tuned than on finding the optimal power settings. In the limited time we had with the machine, producing some decent benchmarking numbers was our top priority.

Also, the Centaur chips consume about 16W per chip (Typical, 20W TDP) and as we had 8 of them inside our S822L, those chips could easily be responsible for consuming around 100W.

Interestingly, the IBM POWER8 consumes more energy processing integers than floating point numbers. Which is the exact opposite of the Xeon, which consumes vastly more when crunching AVX/FP code.

Pricing

Though the cost of buying a system might be only "a drop in the bucket" in the total TCO picture in traditional IT departements running expensive ERP applications, it is an important factor for almost everybody else who buys Xeon systems. It is important to note that the list prices of IBM on their website are too high. It is a bad habit of a typical tier-one OEM.

Thankfully we managed to get some "real street prices", which are between 30% (one server) and 50% (many) lower. To that end we compared the price of the S822L with a discounted DELL R730 system. The list below is not complete, as we only show the cost of the most important components. The idea is to focus on the total system price and show which components contribute the most to the total system cost.

Xeon E7v3/POWER8 Price Comparison
Feature Dell R730 IBM S822L
  Type Price Type Price
Chassis R730 N/A S822L N/A
Processor 2x E5-2697 $5000 2x POWER8 3.42 $3000
RAM 8x 16GB
DDR4 DIMM
$2150 8x 16 GB CDIMM (DDR3) $8000
PSU 2x 1100W $500 2x 1400W $1000
Disks SATA or SSD Starting at
$200
SAS HD/SSD +/- $450
Total system price (approx.)   $10k   $15k

With more or less comparable specs, the S822L was about 50% more expensive. However, it was almost impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison. The biggest "price issue" are the CDIMMs, which are almost 4 times as expensive as "normal" RDIMMs. CDIMMs offer more as they include an L4-cache and some extra features (such as a redundant memory chip for each 9 chips). For most typical current Xeon E5 customers, the cost issue will be important. For a few, the extra redundancy and higher bandwidth will be interesting. Less important, but still significant is the fact that IBM uses SAS disks, which increase the cost of the storage system, especially if you want lots of them.

This cost issue will be much less important on most third party POWER8 systems. Tyan's "Habanero" system for example integrates the Centaur chips on the motherboard, making the motherboard more expensive but you can use standard registered DDR3L RDIMMs, which are much cheaper. Meanwhile the POWER8 processor tends to be very reasonably priced, at around $1500. That is what Dell would charge for an Intel Xeon E5-2670 (12 cores at 2.3-2.6 GHz, 120W). So while Intel's Xeon are much more power efficient than the POWER8 chips, the latter tends to be quite a bit cheaper.

Scale-Out Big Data Benchmark: ElasticSearch Comparing Benchmarks & Closing Thoughts
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  • joegee - Thursday, November 19, 2015 - link

    It was an awesome community. I learned so much from everyone. I remember the days when we'd write pages arguing whether AMD's new 64 bit extension to x86 was truly 64 bit. The discussions could be heated, but they were seldom rude. I wish there were something similar today. :/ Reply
  • Kevin G - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    Aces brings back memories for me as well even though I mainly lurked there.

    A solid chunk of that group have moved over to RWT.
    Reply
  • joegee - Thursday, November 19, 2015 - link

    What is RWT? Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Get back to Aces Hardware you! Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    Like Ryan said, I have been working 11 years at Anand. In other words, it is great working at Anandtech. AT is one of the few tech sites out there that still values deep analysis and allows the editors to take the time to delve deep. Reply
  • joegee - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    And still writing as well as you ever did! Keep up the good work, Johan! Reply
  • rrossi - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    Dear Johan nice article. Did u ever consider sparse system solving (with preconditioning) as a sensitive benchmark? It is a crucial stage of most scientific applications and it is a bandwidth limited operation with a high degree of parallelism. It would be definitely interesting to see how the power 8 fares on such a test. If you are interested I think I could provide a pointer to a simple benchmark (to be compiled). If you feel it may be interesting just drop me an email. Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    Interested... mail me, I don't have your mail. See the author link on top of the article. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    I'd also like to be pointed to such a benchmark for workstation style tests on x86. Please email ian@anandtech.com with info :) Reply
  • MartinT - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Johan's been with Anandtech for more than a decade, and has been publishing on the subject since the late 90s.

    But I very much second your "Niiiiice!," as reading his name always reminds me of the old days over at aceshardware, and I'm always looking forward to his insights!
    Reply

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