Next Stop: the Uncore

Continuing with our review of Haswell architecture, let's again take a step back and use the Xeon 5500 as our reference point. The Xeon 5500 is based on the "Nehalem" architecture, and it helped Intel become dominant in the server market. Before the Xeon 5500, AMD's Opteron was still able to outperform the Xeons in quite a few applications (HPC and virtualization for example), even by significant margins. That changed with Nehalem, so the Xeon 5500 is a good reference point.

7-zip Benchmark – Single Threaded

The 27% cumultative IPC (integer only) improvement of Haswell mentioned is more than just theory: Anand's review of the desktop Haswell CPUs confirmed this. The Haswell Core i7-4770k at the same clock speed is about 21% faster than Nehalem. Now that is below the promised 27% performance increase, but 7-zip is among the applications known to have very low IPC.

Let's go back to the server world. Instead of increasing the clock speeds, clock speeds have declined from 2.93-3.2GHz (Xeon 5500) to 2.3-2.6GHz for the latest high-end parts. However, when Turbo Boost is enabled, 2.8 – 3.1GHz is possible with all cores active. So the clock speed of the high end server CPUs is actually 5 to 20% lower and not 10% higher as in the desktop space. The gains Intel has made in IPC are thus partly negated by slightly lower clock speeds.

Clock speed has clearly been traded in for more cores in most of server SKUs. But the additional cores can prove extremely useful. The SAP S&D application – one of the best industry benchmarks – runs about three times faster (see further) on the latest Xeon E5-2699 v3 than on the Xeon 5500.

This clearly puts into perspective how important the uncore part is for Xeons. The uncore parts makes the difference between a CPU that is only good at running a few handpicked benchmarks (like SPECint rate) but fails to achieve much in real applications, vs. an attractive product that can lower the IT costs by running more virtual machines and offering services to more users.

Refresher: the Haswell Core The Magic Inside the Uncore
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  • coburn_c - Monday, September 08, 2014 - link

    MY God - It's full of transistors! Reply
  • Samus - Monday, September 08, 2014 - link

    I wish there were socket 1150 Xeon's in this class. If I could replace my quad core with an Octacore... Reply
  • wireframed - Saturday, September 20, 2014 - link

    If you can afford an 8-core CPU, I'm sure you can afford a S2011 board - it's like 15% of the price of the CPU, so the cost relative to the rest of the platform is negligible. :)
    Also, s1150 is dual-channel only. With that many cores, you'll want more bandwidth.
    Reply
  • peevee - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    For many, if not most workloads it will be faster to run 4 fast (4GHz) cores on 4 fast memory channels (DDR4-2400+) than 8 slow (2-3GHz) cores on 2 memory channels. Of course, if your workload consists of a lot of trigonometry (sine/cosine etc), or thread worksets completely fit into 2nd level cache (only 256k!), you may benefit from 8/2 config. But if you have one of those, I am eager to hear what it is. Reply
  • tech6 - Monday, September 08, 2014 - link

    The 18 core SKU is great news for those trying to increase data center density. It should allow VM hosts with 512Gb+ of memory to operate efficiently even under demanding workloads. Given the new DDR4 memory bandwidth gains I wonder if the 18 core dual socket SKUs will make quad socket servers a niche product? Reply
  • Kevin G - Monday, September 08, 2014 - link

    In fairness, quad socket was already a niche market.

    That and there will be quad socket version of these chips: E5-4600v3's.
    Reply
  • wallysb01 - Monday, September 08, 2014 - link

    My lord. My thought is that this really shows that v3 isn’t the slouch many thought it would be. An added 2 cores over v2 in the same price range and turbo boosting that appears to functioning a little better, plus the clock for clock improvements and move to DDR4 make for a nice step up when all combined.

    I’m surprised Intel went with an 18 core monster, but holy S&%T, if they can squeeze it in and make it function, why not.
    Reply
  • Samus - Monday, September 08, 2014 - link

    I feel for AMD, this just shows how far ahead Intel is :\ Reply
  • Thermogenic - Monday, September 08, 2014 - link

    Intel isn't just ahead - they've already won. Reply
  • olderkid - Monday, September 08, 2014 - link

    AMD saw Intel behind them and they wondered how Intel fell so far back. But really Intel was just lapping them. Reply

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