First Round K.O.

We measured performance using two metrics: the average time it took to fulfill a request to the web server, and the total number of templates (pages) served by the web server during the 30-minute test period. The two numbers are related, but both are useful to look at in order to get an idea of the real world difference in performance between the platforms.

All of our tests were done on dual processor configurations. So, to make the charts easier to read, we omitted any 2-way labeling on the CPU names themselves.

Frankly, we were shocked when we saw the first performance results, and we ran and re-ran them to make sure our numbers were correct. In the end, they were.

The Opteron 248 setup managed to outperform Intel’s fastest, largest cache Xeon MP by a whopping 45%. Boasting 141 ms request times, the Opteron 248 system was 12% faster than the Opteron 244 setup, indicating very good scaling with clock speed — a 50% increase in performance for every 100% increase in clock speed.

It is widely known that the Opteron and Xeon should not be compared on a clock for clock basis, but with the 2.0GHz Xeon MP being the fastest Xeon MP available just about a year ago, it is interesting to note the performance advantage AMD can offer over aging Intel systems.

You don’t even have to go for the top-of-the-line Opteron system in order to achieve performance greater than an Intel Xeon platform; although not depicted here, even the Opteron 240 should be able to be, at least, as fast as the 2.8GHz Xeon MP.

Intel’s 533MHz FSB Xeon 3.20GHz with its 1MB L2 cache may be a better match for the Opteron, but it is going to take much more than a 400MHz increase in clock speed to close the 45% performance gap that exists here. These Xeon parts are hard to come by and we’d love to re-run the tests with the new 3.2GHz parts (although they have smaller caches, the extra clock speed and faster FSB should help performance a bit) to see how they stack up.

Here, you can see the real-world performance advantages from another angle. Instead of looking at it as how much more responsive the Opteron server was, look at it from a standpoint of how many more people were able to access the site being hosted.

The performance, once again, speaks for itself. Just as the Athlon MP was a leader in web and database serving performance, the Opteron carries the torch for AMD this time around.

Keep in mind that web and database server applications are very sensitive to memory performance. So, although the Xeon attempts to hide larger memory access latencies with its 2MB L3 cache, the Opteron’s on-die memory controller helps improve performance significantly. The Opteron’s TLB optimizations work alongside the on-die memory controller to ensure that accesses to main memory (which will happen more frequently on the Opteron than on the Xeon because of the absence of any L3 cache) occur as quickly as possible.

The Test Final Words
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  • Blackbrrd - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    It would be nice to see how the Xeon 2,8GHz DP 533mhz bus (no L3 cache) does against the Opteron 242 set up, as the price for these are about the same. As it is the fastest Intel CPU I can buy from for instance DELL is a 3,2GHz DP with 1MB L3 cache.

    As it is, we will be buying an Opteron server quite soon, based on the outcome of these benchmarks.

    About using a ramdisk: what they have actually tested is how a java webserver performs on the different CPU's. I am working in a small company that uses a java webserver with quite a bit of business logic, not just db inserts updates and selects. This test was about as spot on as you can get.

    Happy to see a site that isn't only doing game pc benchmarking :)
  • Ben98SentraSE - Sunday, January 11, 2004 - link

    First off, GREAT article. I check this site several times a day to see when the next review(s) in this area come out! :)

    I am the IS Manager at a medium-sized credit union and we are converting our core processing application from one that runs on an overpriced Unisys A-Series mainframe (good riddance) to one that runs on Oracle and Windows Server 2003. From Anandtech's articles (as well as a few other reviews around the web) I plan on purchasing Opteron servers to run this new system. Today I can run 32-bit and be fast, and tomorrow when Oracle's AMD64 version of 9i comes out of developer release and either when the AMD64 version of Server 2003 comes out or we become comfortable enough with Linux+Oracle, we can be faster. The point of stating this is just another prop to Anandtech's team that their IT Computing reviews are affecting purchasing in the real world at places like where I work that can purchase the best equipment for the job and for the price, regardless of brand. (thankfully!)

    If I could ask for ANY changes to's reviews, I'd request a larger focus to IT computing. It is hard for me to find sources of information on server-type performance benchmarks in as much depth as Anandtech goes into them.
  • Jason Clark - Saturday, December 20, 2003 - link

    There we go :) Less confusing zuni = jason clark.
  • Zuni - Saturday, December 20, 2003 - link

    Trog, sure I did Zuni = Jason Clark I'll change my nic to my real name shortly as it is confusing. I co-wrote the article with anand.


    The database side of this equation is coming, we're just waiting on some cabling for our u320 drive chasis.
  • Visual - Saturday, December 20, 2003 - link

    Zuni, thanks for responding, whoever you are ;)

    Seems you'll need to run some DB benches on those cpus, or even DB and webserver at once, for this review to be complete... as for me, I'm curious about how much better the A64 can be in 64bit mode :)

    I'm eager to see your next articles, and I want to say thanks to the whole AnandTech team for the great site you're making :)
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Ugh... I feel like we keep talking past each other. I know and understand that the database was not being used as part of *this* benchmark. My point is that database operations are often a pretty major part of many web servers out there, so, I am curious as to what performance is when you're running the database and web server and everything else together on one system. Consider it a request for a future benchmark, not a fault with the present case.

    As an example, say you have some business that doesn't have a whole lot of money to spend on a server, so they're looking at a Linux box running Apache web server and PHP/MySQL. Certainly, this setup on a single system will not be able to handle a huge amount of traffic, like the web site. However, I would like to see how much traffic such a system *can* handle. And how does the Athlon 64/FX compare to the Pentium 4 in such an arena? Is disk I/O more of a factor, or does the Athlon architecture actually do better?

    Any chance of getting such a benchmark done? Not necessarily with those specific applications, of course, but something similar? Or, if that's a pointless benchmark, please give reasons... maybe it's already been tested by others? Whatever.

    Thanks for the responses, though. And you never answered: is "Zuni" Anand or Jason, or is it someone else who just worked with those two on the article?
  • Zuni - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Essentially using a ramdisk allowed neither cpu to have a limit on its scalability. That's what we were after, and doing that without having expensive raid arrays that are only used when we run a server test. It provided no benefit to either manufacturer it just allowed neither to be limited in any fashion. It worked well, and the numbers show that. I sure hope we can run itanium, we're trying to get ahold of one for you guys.

    Cheers, and everyone have a great holiday!.
  • Falco. - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Zuni, thanks for all the replies, and please keep in mind that most of the replies are not from me, but from a friend of mine that knows ALOT more about this then i do :-)
  • Abraxas - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    trogdorjw, in the article it states that the database WAS a bottleneck as you've pointed out, however, it does say "particularly with the opteron." to me this is saying that the database was not a bottleneck with the xeon servers and moreso with the opteron, ie the opteron was only maxed out when using the ramdisk and did not have as much of a performance advantage without it. this would not mean that the opteron had NO advantage over intel with a more normal disk setup. the article also pointed out that even the lower-end opterons (240) would have an advantage over the fastest xeons. this would be even more true under your suggested "real world" setting.

    i can't wait to see the itanic vs opteron comparison :)
  • Zuni - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Thanks for the feedback, appreciate it. If you have further suggestions or applications you feel could be tested post them here.


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