The first conclusion is that we should have included more applications for benchmarking. There are two reasons for this. The first one is that a multitude of little problems made us delay our VMware/Xen/Hyper-V benchmarking efforts to a later article. The second one is that many of our standard benchmarks simply cannot scale to 16 cores: our chess, WinRAR, zVisuel and MySQL benchmarks are limited to 8 cores, and this clearly illustrates that how few applications can benefit from even higher numbers of cores on a CPU when running in a non-virtualized environment.

The Intel Xeons reign supreme when it comes to rendering but there is a catch. The catch is that the superb 45nm Xeon 5472 makes many of the quad-socket platforms of both AMD and Intel pretty obsolete. When it comes to rendering, the quad-socket Xeon servers at less than 2.4GHz simply do not make sense when compared to a Xeon 5472 server: more expensive, more power, and slower performance.

The SPECjbb and SAP tests show that AMD's quad-core Opteron, even at 2.3GHz, is a very potent server CPU. In fact, if the current Barcelona chips would not have been stuck at these rather disappointing clock speeds, AMD would have given Intel's engineers a really though challenge. Now it is a very close call, just like in the LINPAC benchmark.

At the end of the day, that does not really matter. What matters is that the enterprise that wants to run a Java or an ERP application can run it on a server with an excellent performance/Watt ratio. The AMD and Intel platform are very close in this respect, but AMD pulls slightly ahead thanks to the lower power consumption when running at low load. In many cases, ERP and Java applications run at low load during some parts of the day. Many of the HPC benchmarks (Fluent, LSDyna) also give the AMD CPU an advantage.

So for a few months, AMD might have a slight edge over the Intel Armada, but not for long. Looking at how well the Xeon "Harpertown" 5472 performs, and knowing that the next Xeon MP "Dunnington" is basically three of those "Harpertown" Xeons with a large L3 cache, it is clear Intel is going to assault AMD's last stronghold in the near future.


[1] IDC, Kenneth Cayton and Jed Scaramella, "IBM System X4: Delivering High Value Through Scale Up", Sponsored by: IBM, January 2008

[2] Gabriel Consulting Group, "X86 buying trends: big is in", October 2007

[3] IDC, John Humphreys and Tim Grieser, "Mainstreaming Server Virtualization: The Intel Approach", Sponsored by: Intel, June 2006

[4] AMD, Phil Hester CTO, "2006 Technology Analyst Day"

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