Power & Efficiency - 10nm Gains

Power efficiency in the server world infers performance, as the more efficient a CPU is, the more compute power is available in a given TDP. Ice Lake in this regard is extremely interesting given it’s Intel’s first 10nm server design, and in theory should represent a major leap forward for the new 3rd Gen Xeon line-up.

The comparison here is a bit rough this time around, as we’re dealing with a bit of a apples-and-oranges comparisons between the generational SKUs, particularly the 40-core 270W Xeon 8380 and the 28-core 205W Xeon 8280. Fortunately, we had also been sourced a Xeon 6330 from a third vendor, which is a 28-core 205W Ice Lake SP part, which should make generational comparisons a bit more interesting and fairer, although still not quite optimal as we’ll see.

Package Idle Power

Starting off with idle package power, this was something I had made note of in our coverage of AMD’s Milan CPUs a few weeks ago, where the new AMD chip had regressed in terms of apparent IOD power and eating through the power envelope of the socket resulting in some compute performance regressions.

It’s to be noted that we’re not exactly comparing apples-to-apples here, as AMD’s designs are full SoCs, while the Intel CPUs are merely just CPUs that require the usage of an external chipset (Lewisburg Refresh) which by itself uses about 18W, essentially moving that power requirement off-socket. Intel has multiple versions of the chipset on offer, based on Compression/Encryption offload requirements, up to 28.6 W.

Ice Lake Xeon Chipsets
AnandTech SKU Compression
C621A LBG-1G None None 18.0 W
C627A LBG-T 65 Gbps / 100 Gbps 100K OPS 28.6 W
C629A LGB-C 80 Gbps / 100 Gbps None 28.6 W

Intel’s new Ice Lake SP system, similarly to the predecessor Cascade Lake SP system, appear to be very efficient at full system idle, reaching only around 27W per socket. It’s to be noted that these figures are only valid when both sockets are idle, if one socket is under load, the second socket’s power consumption will also grow in tandem even though it’s idle, we’ve seen idle figures up to 70W when the other socket is under full load, and even 90W when one socket is boosting frequencies very high. I suspect this is due to voltages and shared power delivery of the 2-socket system. Generally, it’s not of concern in the real world, but it’s just an interesting titbit to make note of.

The more interesting efficiency data is the actual power and energy consumption under load, and the corresponding performance between the generations. Again, we’re in a bit of a difficult situation here as the comparison isn’t as straightforward as the AMD Milan figures from a few weeks ago where we were comparing equal core-count and equal-TDP SKUs.

The new Xeon 8380 flagship Ice Lake SP CPU comes in at a default TDP of 270W, which is 65W higher than its direct predecessor, the 8280, and also features many more cores. Alongside the 270W default setting, I measured this part under a 205W limited power setting to add an extra data-point.

The Xeon 6330 seems a direct match to the Xeon 8280 (which in turn is identical to a Xeon 6258R), however this ICX part comes in at only $1894 versus the $3950 price point of the 6258R, a pricing that might be indicative of the quality of the silicon bin of this SKU, a point I’ll return to in just a bit.

Intel doesn’t make available core-only power metrics on its recent server chips, so we fall back to total package energy measurements only. I add in the total socket energy consumption for the duration of all workloads, as well as the performance and energy measurements on a per-thread basis as we’re dealing with different core-count designs here.

Ice Lake-SP vs Cascade Lake-SP
Power & Energy Efficiency Estimates
SKU Xeon 8380

(Ice Lake-SP)
Xeon 6330

(Ice Lake-SP)
Xeon 8280

(Cascade Lake-SP)
TDP Setting 270W
(RAPL Limit)
205W 205W
Threads 80 56
Perf PKG
Perf PKG
Perf PKG
500.perlbench_r 190 268 165 204 123 204 119 204
502.gcc_r 167 266 152 204 121 204 105 203
505.mcf_r 117 263 112 204 92 205 71 201
520.omnetpp_r 99 264 94 204 71 204 69 204
523.xalancbmk_r 136 256 124 204 94 203 91 196
525.x264_r 362 268 309 204 226 204 242 204
531.deepsjeng_r 163 268 140 204 101 204 107 205
541.leela_r 166 268 146 204 101 205 107 204
548.exchange2_r 290 269 248 204 178 205 170 205
557.xz_r 120 264 105 204 79 204 86 204
SPECint2017 est. 167.6 265 149.1 204 111.5 204 108.4 203
kJ Total 1937 1662 1552 1612
Score / W 0.632 0.731 0.546 0.534
Score per Thread 2.09 1.86 1.99 1.94
kJ per Thread 24.21 20.78 27.72 28.78
503.bwaves_r 358 247 357 204 324 205 249 188
507.cactuBSSN_r 182 268 163 204 127 204 116 204
508.namd_r 194 268 164 204 122 204 127 205
510.parest_r 102 267 99 204 85 204 63 191
511.povray_r 242 269 203 203 157 204 152 205
519.lbm_r 38 236 38 204 34 199 26 173
526.blender_r 234 268 201 204 153 204 143 204
527.cam4_r 244 268 220 204 173 204 161 204
538.imagick_r 284 266 249 204 175 204 193 205
544.nab_r 177 269 151 204 109 204 109 205
549.fotonik3d_r 110 244 110 204 99 201 78 154
554.roms_r 78 261 78 204 68 205 50 173
SPECfp2017 est. 160.7 255 147.4 204 118.7 205 104.8 184
kJ Total 3877 3258 2714 2958
Score / W 0.631 0.722 0.546 0.570
Score per Thread 2.01 1.84 2.12 1.87
kJ per Thread 48.47 40.73 48.46 52.82

Starting off with the new flagship CPU, the Xeon 8380 indeed has little trouble to significantly outperform the Xeon 8280 by 54% in both integer and floating-point SPEC suites. This comes as no surprise as the new SKU is also using a higher TDP.

Reducing the Xeon 8380 to 205W, we’re looking at least at a performance comparison at a supposed ISO-power comparison point. Here, the Xeon 8380 again outperforms the 8280 by 40-43%. The actual measured perf/W falls in at +37% for the integer suite and +27% for the FP suite.

As per-thread performance is roughly similar between the two parts here, we can also do an energy per workload comparison, with the Ice Lake SP SKU using -27 to -23% less energy to complete the same task.

Looking at the Xeon 6330 at its default settings, the figures are quite less impressive. At +2.8 and +13.2%, the new design is posting rather lack-lustre performance boosts. The power efficiency and energy consumption figures are also extremely close to that of the 8280.

It’s to be noted, that Intel also has the Xeon 6348 in its line-up which is a 28C part as well, but with a 235W TDP. The results of the 6330 really aren’t too fantastic, even if it’s a weakly binned SKU that comes at a much cheaper price than its predecessor, meaning there’s a possible wide range in silicon quality between the new Ice Lake SKUs, indicating that a badly binned Ice Lake SKU isn’t notably better than a well binned Cascade Lake part.

Topology, Memory Subsystem & Latency SPEC - Multi-Threaded Performance


View All Comments

  • deil - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    that's a lot of upgrade for intel Reply
  • Gomez Addams - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    That is a curious-looking wafer. I thought it was fake at first but then I noticed the alignment notch. Actually, I'm still not convinced it's real because I have seen lots and lots of wafers in various stages of production and I have never seen one where partial chips go all the way out to the edges. It's a waste of time to deal with those in the steppers so no one does that. Reply
  • JCB994 - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    Periphery defects? I used to deal with those...buildup of material that would breakdown during wet processing and stream particles all over the wafer. Running partials as far out as possible helped. Nowadays...do they still use big wet benches? I have been out awhile... Reply
  • Gomez Addams - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    Yes, they do. That's one of the systems I spent lots of time working on. Those don't look defects to me. They are just a continuation of the chip pattern. Reply
  • FullmetalTitan - Saturday, April 24, 2021 - link

    Still the most chemical efficient tools for some etch processes. It is odd to see die prints out to the edge all around, usually at least the 'corners' are inked out/not patterned by the time it hits copper layers because printing features out that far can increase the chances of film delamination, which just leads to more defectivity. I suppose on DUV tools the extra few seconds to run those shots isn't THAT bad on non-immersion layers, but it adds up over time Reply
  • Arsenica - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    It isn´t real if it doesn´t have DrIan bite marks.

  • ilt24 - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    @Gomez Addams

    I spent my entire career working in the semiconductor industry, although in IT, and I have seen many wafers from 4" to 12" and printing partial die off the edge of the wafer is quite common.

    check out the pictures in these article:

  • Kamen Rider Blade - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    So when are we going to hit 450 mm / 18" waffers?

    Are we ever going to get Hexagonal Die's to maximize possible Yields?


    They can already do that for simple LED's, but trying to bring Hexagonal IC Dies into existence is going to be exciting because there is a theoretical 62.5% increase in Manufactured Dies for a given Waffer Diameter and using Hexagonal IC Dies of a similar/identical area.
  • ilt24 - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    @Kamen Rider Blade - "So when are we going to hit 450 mm / 18" waffers?"

    It seems the desire to move to EUV distracted TSMC, Samsung and Intel who are probably the only companies that were really interested in 450mm.
  • saratoga4 - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    >So when are we going to hit 450 mm / 18" waffers?

    For logic, never since there is little to no advantage to larger wafers. Possibly NAND might use it, but we'll see if its even worth it there.

    >Are we ever going to get Hexagonal Die's to maximize possible Yields?

    Probably not for logic. With reticle sizes getting smaller in the coming nodes, it makes even less sense going forward then it did in the past, and it didn't make much sense then to begin with.

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