A Confusing Market

IT managers have it tough; Intel's Xeon line honestly does not make much sense. Initially things were simple, Intel had dual processor Xeons simply branded as the Intel Xeon, and quad processor Xeons that were aptly named Xeon MP. The regular Xeon processors were validated for up to 2-way operation, while the Xeon MP could be used in 2-way, 4-way and 8-way servers.

The regular 2-way Xeons were basically desktop Pentium 4s, while the Xeon MPs included an on-die L3 cache. Fast forward today and things have definitely changed.

We are comparing three different Intel cores to AMD's one and only Opteron core, so let's focus on the Intel cores first. Intel's Prestonia core is the 0.13-micron heart and soul of the 2-way Xeon processor now. The latest and greatest Prestonia based Xeon runs at 3.2GHz and features a 512KB L2 cache as well as a 2MB on-die L3 cache. This Prestonia should sound very familiar as it is basically a Xeon version of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, which was a Pentium 4 version of the Xeon MP at a higher clock speed. Yes, Prestonia is a server version of a desktop version of a server processor. In fact, the only difference between Prestonia and the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (other than packaging) is that the Prestonia only supports the 533MHz FSB. Front Side Bus bandwidth is actually a very serious issue when it comes to Intel CPUs, but we'll talk about that shortly.

Next we have the Xeon MP processors based off of Intel's 0.13-micron Gallatin core. The Gallatin core is what the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition was derived from, and offers 1MB, 2MB and now 4MB on-die L3 cache configurations. Prior to this article the largest cache size available on a Gallatin core was 2MB, but today Intel is launching their 4MB Gallatin parts. Both the Gallatin 2MB and 4MB parts continue to use a 400MHz FSB, which is the Xeon MP's Achilles' heel. The Gallatin 4MB parts are available in speeds of up to 3.0GHz, which we are including in this review today.

AMD's offerings are much simpler; the Opteron is available in 1-way, 2-way and 4-way+ configurations: the 1xx, 2xx and 8xx series respectively. AMD's offerings haven't changed since our web server comparison, although we should see 2.4GHz Opterons debut in the near future.

Index FSB Impact on Performance: Intel's Achilles' heel


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  • Rand - Friday, May 20, 2005 - link

  • perlgreen - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    Is there any chance that you guys could do more tests and benchmarking on Linux for IT Computing/Servers? I really like your site, but it'd be really nice if there would be more stuff for fans of the Penguin!


  • ragusauce - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    We have been building from source and trying different options / debug versions...
  • DBBoy - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    #47 - In OLAP, or poorly indexed environments where the amount of data exceeds the 4 MB L3 cache of the Xeons the Opteron is going to shine even more with it's increased memory bandwidth.

    Assuming you do not bottleneck on the disk IO the SQL cache/RAM will be utilised much more thus putting more of a burden on the FSB of the Xeons in addition to allowing the Opteron's memory bandwidth to display it's abilities.
  • Jason Clark - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    ragusauce, using binaries or building from source?

  • ragusauce - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    We have been doing extensive testing of MySQL64 on Opteron and have had problems with seg faults as well. Reply
  • zarjad - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    Great, thanks.
    My thoughts:
    In this type of application you are likely to use more than 4GB memory.
    Memory bandwidth should matter because you will be doing a lot of full table scans (as opposed to using indexes).
  • Jason Clark - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    zarjad, I'll get back to you on that question I have some thoughts and amd discussing them with one of the guys that worked with us on the tests (Ross). Reply
  • zarjad - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    Jason, any comments on #47? Reply
  • Jason Clark - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    The os used was windows 2003 enterprise which does indeed support NUMA. So NUMA was enabled.. this was covered in an earlier response. Reply

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