Sizing Up Servers: Intel's Skylake-SP Xeon versus AMD's EPYC 7000 - The Server CPU Battle of the Decade?by Johan De Gelas & Ian Cutress on July 11, 2017 12:15 PM EST
- Posted in
This morning kicks off a very interesting time in the world of server-grade CPUs. Officially launching today is Intel's latest generation of Xeon processors, based on the "Skylake-SP" architecture. The heart of Intel's new Xeon Scalable Processor family, the "Purley" 100-series processors incorporate all of Intel's latest CPU and network fabric technology, not to mention a very large number of cores.
Meanwhile, a couple of weeks back AMD soft-launched their new EPYC 7000 series processors. Based on the company's Zen architecture and scaled up to server-grade I/O and core counts, EPYC represents an epic achievement for AMD, once again putting them into the running for competitive, high performance server CPUs after nearly half a decade gone. EPYC processors have begun shipping, and just in time for today's Xeon launch, we also have EPYC hardware in the lab to test.
Today's launch is a situation that neither company has been in for quite a while. Intel hasn't had serious competition in years, and AMD has't been able to compete. As a result, both companies are taking the other's actions very seriously.
In fact we could go on for much longer than our quip above in describing the rising tension at the headquarters of AMD and Intel. For the first time in 6 years (!), a credible alternative is available for the newly launched Xeon. Indeed, the new Xeon "Skylake-SP" is launching today, and the yardstick for it is not the previous Xeon (E5 version 4), but rather AMD's spanking new EPYC server CPU. Both CPUs are without a doubt very different: micro architecture, ISA extentions, memory subsystem, node topology... you name it. The end result is that once again we have the thrilling task of finding out how the processors compare and which applications their various trade-offs make sense.
The only similarity is that both server packages are huge. Above you see the two new Xeon packages –with and without an Omni-Path connector – both of which are as big as a keycard. And below you can see how one EPYC CPU fills the hand of AMD's CEO Dr. Lisa Su.
Both are 64 bit x86 CPUs, but that is where the similarities end. For those of you who have been reading Ian's articles closely, this is no surprise. The consumer-focused Skylake-X is the little brother of the newly launched Xeon "Purley", both of which are cut from the same cloth that is the Skylake-SP family. In a nutshell, the Skylake-SP family introduces the following new features:
- AVX-512 (Many different variants of the ISA extension are available)
- A 1 MB (instead of a 256 KB) L2-cache with a non-inclusive L3
- A mesh topology to connected the cores and L3-cache chunks together
Meanwhile AMD's latest EPYC Server CPU was launched a few weeks ago:
On the package are four silicon dies, each one containing the same 8-core silicon we saw in the AMD Ryzen processors. Each silicon die has two core complexes, each of four cores, and supports two memory channels, giving a total maximum of 32 cores and 8 memory channels on an EPYC processor. The dies are connected by AMD’s newest interconnect, the Infinity Fabric...
In the next pages, we will be discussing the impact of these architectural choices on server software.
Post Your CommentPlease log in or sign up to comment.
View All Comments
ddriver - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - linkLOL, buthurt intel fanboy claims that the only unbiased benchmark in the review is THE MOST biased benchmark in the review, the one that was done entirely for the puprpose to help intel save face.
Because if many core servers running 128 gigs of ram are primarily used to run 16 megabyte databases in the real world. That's right!
Beany2013 - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkSure, test against Ubuntu 17.04 if you only plan to have your server running till January. When it goes end of life. That's not a joke - non LTS Ubuntu released get nine months patches and that's it.
16.04 is supported till 2021, it's what will be used in production by people who actually *buy* and *use* servers and as such it's a perfectly representative benchmark for people like me who are looking at dropping six figures on this level of hardware soon and want to see how it performs on...goodness, realistic workloads.
rahvin - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - linkThis is a silly argument. No one running these is going to be running bleeding edge software, compiling special kernels or putting optimizing compiler flags on anything. Enterprise runs on stable verified software and OS's. Your typical Enterprise Linux install is similar to RHEL 6 or 7 or it's variants (some are still running RHEL 5 with a 2.6 kernel!). Both RHEL6 and 7 have kernels that are 5+ years old and if you go with 6 it's closer to 10 year old.
Enterprises don't run bleeding edge software or compile with aggressive flags, these things create regressions and difficult to trace bugs that cost time and lots of money. Your average enterprise is going to care about one thing, that's performance/watt running something like a LAMP stack or database on a standard vanilla distribution like RHEL. Any large enterprise is going to take a review like this and use it as data point when they buy a server and put a standard image on it and test their own workloads perf/watt.
Some of the enterprises who are more fault tolerant might run something as bleeding edge as an Ubuntu Server LTS release. This review is a fair review for the expected audience, yes every writer has a little bias but I'd dare you to find it in this article, because the fanboi's on both sides are complaining that indicates how fair the review is.
jjj - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkDo remember that the future is chiplets, even for Intel.
The 2 are approaching that a bit differently as AMD had more cost constrains so they went with a 4 cores CCX that can be reused in many different prods.
Highly doubt that AMD ever goes back to a very large die and it's not like Intel could do a monolithic 48 cores on 10nm this year or even next year and that would be even harder in a competitive market. Sure if they had a Cortex A75 like core and a lot less cache, that's another matter but they are so far behind in perf/mm2 that it's hard to even imagine that they can ever be that efficient.
coder543 - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkNever heard the term "chiplet" before. I think AMD has adequately demonstrated the advantages (much higher yield -> lower cost, more than adequate performance), but I haven't heard Intel ever announce that they're planning to do this approach. After the embarrassment that they're experiencing now, maybe they will.
Ian Cutress - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkLook up Intel's EMIB. It's an obvious future for that route to take as process nodes get smaller.
Threska - Saturday, July 22, 2017 - linkWe may see their interposer (like used with their GPUs) technology being used.
jeffsci - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkBenchmarking NAMD with pre-compiled binaries is pretty silly. If you can't figure out how to compile it for each every processor of interest, you shouldn't be benchmarking it.
CajunArson - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkOn top of all that, they couldn't even be bothered to download and install a (completely free) vanilla version that was released this year. Their version of NAMD 2.10 is from *2014*!
tamalero - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkDo high level servers update their versions constantly?
I know that most of the critical stuff, only patch serious vulnerabilities and not update constantly to newer things just because they are available.