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.

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  • LemmingOverlord - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Mate... Bite your tongue! Johan is THE man when it comes to Datacenter-class hardware. Obviously he doesn't get the same exposure as teh personal technology guys, but he is definitely one of the best reviewers out there (inside and outside AT). Reply
  • joegee - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    He's been doing class A work since Ace's Hardware (maybe before, I found him on Ace's though.) He is a cut above the rest. Reply
  • nismotigerwvu - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Johan,

    I think you had a typo on the first sentence of the 3rd paragraph on page 1.

    "After seeing the reader interestin POWER8 in that previous article..."

    Nice read overall and if I hadn't just had my morning cup of coffee I would have missed it too.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Good catch. Thanks! Reply
  • Essence_of_War - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    That performance per watt, it is REALLY hard to keep up with the Xeons there! Reply
  • III-V - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    IBM's L1 data cache has a 3-cycle access time, and is twice as large (64KB) as Intel's, and I think I remember it accounting for something like half the power consumption of the core. Reply
  • Essence_of_War - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Whoa, neat bit of trivia! Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, November 7, 2015 - link

    Interesting. Got a link/doc to back that up? I have not found such detailed architectural info. Reply
  • Henriok - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    Very nice to see tests of non-x86 hardware. It's interesting too se a test of the S822L when IBM just launched two even more price competitive machines, designed and built by Wistron and Tyan, as pure OpenPOWER machines: the S812LC and S822LC. These can't run AIX, and are substantially cheaper than the IBM designed machines. They might lack some features, but they would probably fit nicely in this test. And they are sporting the single chip 12 core version of the POWER8 processor (with cores disabled). Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, November 6, 2015 - link

    "The server is powered by two redundant high quality Emerson 1400W PSUs."

    The sticker on the PSU is only 80+ (no color). Unless the hotswap support comes with a substantial penalty (if so why); this design looks to be well behind the state of the art. With data centers often being power/hvac limited these days, using a relatively low efficiency PSU in an otherwise very high end system seems bizarre to me.
    Reply

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