Putting It All Together

Finally, we have been able to offer you a comparison of real OEM servers. In this article, we tried some new approaches with our testing methods: we measured and compared response times and energy consumption, instead of the usual focus on "throughput" and "maximum/idle power". It is important to take a step back and look at all our benchmark data from the point of view of a server buyer.

Let's start with the quad Xeon 7500 server: the SGI Altix UV 10 or QSSC-4R. Based on our performance numbers alone, we felt that one quad Xeon 7500 server could replace two or more dual Xeon servers as the performance/price was right. The price is about 2.5x higher than a dual Xeon, but you get twice the performance, more expandibility (PCIe and DIMM slots), and superior RAS as bonus. Remember, a Xeon MP with a price/performance ratio that could rival that of a dual Xeon was a first.

But the appearance of the Dell R815 and the high energy consumption make the SGI / QSSC server retreat to its typical target (and very profitable) markets: ERP, databases with large memory footprints where RAS is not a bonus but the top priority. The performance was a pleasant surprise and the power consumption of CPUs was decent. Make sure you populate at least 32 DIMMs, as bandwidth takes a dive at lower DIMM counts.

The power consumption of the platform, especially looking at the idle numbers, remains a weak spot. We know that scalability and availability come with a price, but three times higher energy consumption than a dual socket server is too much to convince us that the quad Xeon platform is an attractive virtualization building block.

The HP Proliant DL380 G7 surprised with better than expected energy consumption and some really clever engineering (CPU cage, cold redundancy, energy management...). The high single threaded performance of the Xeon X5670 leads to low response times in many real world circumstances. At high loads, it is outperformed by the Dell R815 that is hardly more expensive.

With 80% higher DIMM counts and 80% to 85% higher throughput, the Dell PowerEdge R815 surpasses the rival HP DL380 G7 by a large margin, while at the same time costing only 20-30% more and needing just as much rack space. That is amazing value. While the price/performance ratio blew us away, we were also hoping that a single R815 could beat the performance/watt ratio of two HP DL380 G7s by a significant margin. That would have been the cherry on the cake, but it did not happen.

The server is not too blame; rather, the CPUs consume more than the ACP ratings that AMD mentions everywhere. The truth is that the CPUs at high load consume much closer to their TDP numbers than ACP ones. However, the performance per watt ratio of the complete server is still competitive. The lower single-thread performance per core is a disadvantage in applications with complex webpages. We would avoid the low end Opteron 6100s.

The bottom line is that Dell's R815 can replace two HP DL380 G7s at a much lower investment cost, with about the same energy costs and lower management costs. Having to manage half as much physical servers should after all also lower the operation costs. Dell's PowerEdge R815 materializes AMD's promise of the "Value 4P server".


My special thanks goes out to Tijl Deneut for his benchmarking assistance.

Response Times In Summary, Pros and Cons
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  • jdavenport608 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Appears that the pros and cons on the last page are not correct for the SGI server.
  • Photubias - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    If you view the article in 'Print Format' than it shows correctly.
    Seems to be an Anandtech issue ... :p
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Fixed. Thanks for the notice.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Hey guys, you've got to do better than this. The only thing that drew me to this article was the Name "SGI" and your explanation of their system is nothing.

    Why not just come out and say . . " Hey, look what I've got pictures of". Thats about all the use I have for the "article". Sorry if you do not like that Johan, but the truth hurts.
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    It is clear that we do not focus on the typical SGI market. But you have noticed that from the other competitors and you know that HPC is not our main expertise, virtualization is. It is not really clear what your complaint is, so I assume that it is the lack of HPC benchmarks. Care to make your complaint a little more constructive?
  • davegraham - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    i'll defend Johan here...SGI has basically cornered themselves into the cloud scale market place where their BTO-style of engagement has really allowed them to prosper. If you wanted a competitive story there, the Dell DCS series of servers (C6100, for example) would be a better comparison.


  • tech6 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    While the 815 is great value where the host is CPU bound, most VM workloads seem to be memory limited rather than processing power. Another consideration is server (in particularly memory) longevity which is something where the 810 inherits the 910s RAS features while the 815 misses out.

    I am not disagreeing with your conclusion that the 815 is great value but only if your workload is CPU bound and if you are willing to take the risk of not having RAS features in a data center application.
  • JFAMD - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    True that there is a RAS difference, but you do have to weigh the budget differences and power differences to determine whether the RAS levels of either the R815 (or even a xeon 5600 system) are not sufficient for your application. Keep in mind that the xeon 7400 series did not have these RAS features, so if you were comfortable with the RAS levels of the 7400 series for these apps, then you have to question whether the new RAS features are a "must have". I am not saying that people shouldn't want more RAS (everyone should), but it is more a question of whether it is worth paying the extra price up front and the extra price every hour at the wall socket.

    For virtualization, the last time I talked to the VM vendors about attach rate, they said that their attach rate to platform matched the market (i.e. ~75% of their software was landing on 2P systems). So in the case of virtualization you can move to the R815 and still enjoy the economics of the 2P world but get the scalability of the 4P products.
  • tech6 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I don't disagree but the RAS issue also dictates the longevity of the platform. I have been in the hosting business for a while and we see memory errors bring down 2 year+ old HP blades in alarming numbers. If you budget for a 4 year life cycle, then RAS has to be high on your list of features to make that happen.
  • mino - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Generally I would agree except that 2yr old HP blades (G5) are the worst way to ascertain commodity x86 platform reliability.
    1) inadequate cooling setup (you better keep c7000 input air well below 20C at all costs)
    2) FBDIMM love to overheat
    3) G5 blade mobos are BIG MESS when it comes to memory compatibility => they clearly underestimated the tolerances needed

    4) All the points above hold true at least compared to HS21* and except 1) also against bl465*

    Speaking about 3yrs of operations of all three boxen in similar conditions. The most clear thi became to us when building power got cutoff and all our BladeSystems got dead within minutes (before running out of UPS by any means) while our 5yrs old BladeCenter (hosting all infrastructure services) remained online even at 35C (where the temp platoed thanks to dead HP's)
    Ironically, thanks to the dead production we did not have to kill infrastructure at all as the UPS's lasted for the 3 hours needed easily ...

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