10Feb/120

New GIGA rootserver: Why Intel beats AMD

We had announced it already during the past days. Giga-International will be offering a new server model shortly. Being the new highend model this new server will enter a frontline position of Giga Hostings server fleet, so to speak.
In this case, the decisive factor for choosing the hardware of our new 'flagship' was our main goal to concentrate the best possible performance in one machine. Strength, energy, power. Nothing but these attributes had to be realized.
Having the choice of two servers, branded David and Goliath, we wanted to offer the huge, strong Goliath. Poor little David may go playing with his slingshot somewhere else. Regardless to the costs, we were determined to offer a true 'power pack' which copes with any applications for a long long time.

Naturally enough, the essential role in the efficiency of a server plays its "heart", the processor.
Quite often, in that area, you're cought between a rock and a hard place. AMD or Intel. Who offers the better processor at a more attractive price/performance ratio?

Vital support in answering this question was provided from professionals whose opinion we always relied upon: Our customers
We had placed a questionaire right here in this Blog and had introduced both - in our opinion - most efficient and pricewise pretty similar models of Intel and AMD for making a pick and asked our customers and prospects for their vote.
From the very beginning one could tell that the Intel processor (Intel Core i7 3930X with six cores at 3,20 GHz each and HT) would pass the AMD-Processor (AMD Opteron 6272 with 16 cores at 2,1 GHz each). In the end, the Intel processor won the race with a 55% acceptance. Not a giant advance, however to us, a first hint.

At a second level it took us to build both systems (in otherwise same configuration) and to test the true measurable power of both processors, supported by benchmarks. The result of the benchmarks: Fair, undisputable - and a crystal clear pin pointing again to Intel. Each test conducted under the latest CentOS version supported the opinion of our customers who had decided for the Intel processor already in advance.
In Unixbench, for instance, the Intel Core i7 3930K achieved values three times better than the AMD processor, in single-core-operation. These who had thought that the Opteron 6272 with it's remarkable 16 cores will outrule the Intel Core i7 3930K when it comes to multicore operation were unfortunately proven wrong. Even in that category the Intel processor produced twice as good results. Even the variety with and without 'filycopy' in both scenarios did not change the clear decision pro Intel.

After all a pretty explicit score. The majority of our questonaire participants voted for the Intel processor and the benchmarks conducted by us make the AMD processor look "knocked out" in comparison.

This is a pity for our marketing department though. It would have been sheer pleasure to promote a 16-Core dedicated server, whose mainboard had even posessed an integrated KVM-over-IP function, and it would have definitely gained publicity. But in that case, we are much more focussed on true, measurable, pure performace and customer satisfaction in regards to our new top model.

In terms of marketing, this Intel Core i7 3930K with it's 6 Cores may not shine as bright as his AMD twin, but provides exactly what our customers and we have wished for: Power, energy, strength, and more processing capabilities as any other server had before. All these attributes are from now on combined and related to one single key only in the name of our new server Goliath:

Dedicated Server X

Watch out, it is coming your way.

------------------ The same text in german / Der gleiche Text in deutsch: ------------------

Wir haben es bereits in den letzten Tagen angekündigt: Giga-Hosting wird in Kürze ein neues Servermodell anbieten. Der neue Server wird sich als neues Highend-Modell sozusagen an die Spitze der GIGA-Nahrungskette setzen.
Ausschlaggebend für die Wahl der Hardware unseres neuen Flaggschiffs war dabei allein das Ziel, die bestmögliche Leistung in einer Maschine zu bündeln. Stärke, Energie, Kraft. Nichts anderes als diese Substantive galt es umzusetzen.
Wenn wir zwei Server zur Wahl haben, die David und Goliath heißen, dann wollen wir den großen, starken Goliath anbieten. Der kleine David kann mit seiner Steinschleuder zu Hause bleiben. Wir wollen unseren Kunden ein Kraftpaket anbieten, das für alle Anwendungen für eine lange Zeit gerüstet sein wird - koste es, was es wolle.

Eine entscheidende Rolle für die Leistungsfähigkeit eines Servers spielt natürlich immer sein Herz: Der Prozessor.
Wie so oft steht man in diesem Bereich vor der Qual der Wahl: AMD oder Intel? Wer hat den besseren Prozessor zum besseren Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis?

Eine entscheidende Hilfestellung zu dieser Frage haben wir zunächst von den Fachleuten erhalten, deren Meinung uns am Wichtigsten ist: Von unseren Kunden.
Wir haben in einer Umfrage hier im Blog die beiden unserer Meinung nach effizientesten und gleichzeitig preislich recht ähnlichen Modelle von Intel und AMD zur Wahl gestellt und unsere Kunden und Interessenten gefragt, für welchen Typ sie sich entscheiden würden. Von Anfang an hat sich dabei ein Vorsprung für den Intel-Prozessor (Intel Core i7 3930X with six cores at 3,20 GHz each and HT) gegenüber dem AMD-Prozessor (AMD Opteron 6272 with 16 cores at 2,1 GHz each) herauskristallisiert. Am Ende gewann der Intel-Prozessor mit 55 % Zustimmung die Umfrage. Kein riesiger Vorsprung, für uns aber doch ein erster Ansatzpunkt.

Im zweiten Schritt galt es beide Systeme (in sonst gleicher Ausstattung) zu bauen und mit Hilfe von Benchmarks die wahre, messbare Leistungsfähigkeit der beiden Prozessoren zu testen.
Gesagt, getan. Das Ergebnis der Benchmarks: Fair, unbestechlich - und ein glasklarer, weiterer Fingerzeig zu Intel.
Alle Tests, die wir unter dem jeweils neuesten CentOS durchgeführt haben, gaben der Mehrheit unserer Kunden recht, die sich schon vorab für den Intel-Prozessor ausgesprochen hatten.
Im Unixbench etwa erreichte der Intel Core i7 3930K im Single-Core-Betrieb nahezu 3 mal bessere Werte als der AMD-Prozessor.
Doch wer dachte, spätestens im Multi-Core-Betrieb kann der AMD Opteron 6272 mit seinen beachtlichen 16 Kernen seine Stärken ausspielen, hat sich leider getäuscht: Auch hier schnitt der Intel-Prozessor im Vergleich etwa doppelt so gut ab. In beiden Fällen änderte die Variante mit oder ohne "filycopy" nichts an diesem klaren Resultat pro Intel.

Alles in allem ein deutliches Gesamtergebnis: Die Mehrheit der Teilnehmer unserer Umfrage entschied sich für den Intel-Prozessor und die von uns durchgeführten Benchmarks zeigten, dass im Vergleich der AMD-Prozessor alt aussieht.
Schade zwar für unser Marketing: Mit einem "Dedicated Server 16-Core", dessen Mainboard sogar schon über eine integrierte KVM-over-IP Funktion verfügt hätte, hätten wir sicherlich nur allzu gern geworben und so manche interessierte Blicke auf das Modell gezogen.

Doch da ist uns die echte, messbare, pure Leistung und die Zufriedenheit unserer Kunden mit unserem neuen Topmodell doch um einiges wichtiger. Der Intel Core i7 3930K mag in puncto Marketing mit seinen 6 Kernen nicht so glänzen wie sein AMD-Pendant. Gleichwohl bietet er genau das, was unsere Kunden und wir uns gewünscht haben: Kraft, Energie, Stärke, mehr Prozessorleistung als je zuvor. Und all diese Begriffe soll ab sofort nur ein einfacher Buchstabe im Namen des neuen Server-Goliaths symbolisieren:

Dedicated Server X

Bald ist es soweit.

6Apr/100

Intel’s CPU brand names can be confusing (part 1)

During the days of Intel's Pentium 4 and AMD's Athlon 64 CPUs, it was common practice to compare CPUs by looking at only one aspect: their clock rate. Just like nowadays, this was not really appropriate as there are many other characteristics which need to be taken into account to determine the performance of a CPU. In such a direct comparison, AMD's Athlon always "lost" to the Pentium 4 since the Pentium was clocked at much higher rates. Despite the lower clock rate, the performance of the Athlon was close to that of the Pentium, sometimes also surpassing it. Motivated by this discrepancy, the marketing department of AMD renamed the Athlon brand CPUs. With the new naming conventions, AMD's CPUs did not carry the clock rate in their name. They rather had a number assigned to them, such as "3800+" for a model clocked at 2.4 GHz. By doing so, AMD marketing wanted to express that this CPU was equal or better (hence the plus sign) than a Pentium 4 clocked at 3.8 GHz.
This rather aggressive marketing move is a perfect example of the naming intransparency that sometimes "shrouds" the CPU market and makes it difficult to get a clear overview.
In this article, I would like to have a look at Intel's current range of server and desktop CPU brands, especially at wrong conclusions that one might draw due to the naming. Since most of the new brands have only recently been introduced, this is a good time to do so.

There is a myriad of things that can be considered when comparing CPUs. This article is intended to give a compact overview of the most important aspects, especially for people who cannot invest the time to constantly follow the rapidly evolving CPU market.

Core i7
This is Intel's top-of-the line brand. Still, there are three types of CPUs named "Core i7". The Bloomfield Core i7 was the first to enter the market. It uses socket 1366 and has clock ranges from 2.66 GHz to 3.33 GHz. The Lynnfield Core i7 uses socket 1156 and clocks at 2.8 GHz and 2.93 GHz. Both Bloomfield and Lynnfield have four physical cores and can handle four additional threads through HT. In tests, the turbo mode of the Lynnfield has stood out in a very positive way. The third Core i7 CPU has been released only recently, it's the Gulftown line which is using socket 1336, has a clock rate of 3,33 GHz and six physical cores as well as the capacity to handle six additional threads through HT. While there are differences, any Core i7 CPU delivers extremely high performance and is a good choice.

Core i5
Interestingly, some CPUs of the Lynnfield line are also sold as Core i5 CPUs. At this point of time, there is one clocked at 2.67 GHz and a high-efficiency version at 2.4 GHz. The remainder of the Core i5s are Clarkdale CPUs which, although sharing the same socket, differ massively from the Lynnfield line. The first difference is the number of cores, since there are only two. More interestingly, Clarkdale CPUs contain a majority of components that previously were included in the north bridge of a mainboard. The most important change is that Clarkdale delivers integrated graphics as well as the memory controller with the CPU. Whereas its 32 nm process and its thereby decreased power consumption might make the Clarkdale line look interesting for servers, there are arguments against that. First of all, for a CPU newly introduced into the market, two cores is a rather low number. Also, the memory controller is connected via QPI which causes higher latency times when accessing the RAM as compared to the Lynnfield line. In conclusion, the Clarkdale might be interesting for a certain niche server type, but it rather is intended for slim home and office computers and that is where it excels.

Core i3
Currently, there are only two Core i3 CPUs and both of them are Clarkdale CPUs.

Pentium, Celeron
This is where things get really confusing. These two brands have been around since 1993 (1998 respectively) and thus comprise a great variety of CPUs from different lines and even architectures. There are Pentiums and Celerons from the Clarkdale line, but also Core- and Netburst-based models. It is important to know that Intel is using these two brands to offer well-priced CPUs and to distinguish them from the other, more expensive brands. This is interesting when one is looking for a bargain, because there sometimes are Pentium and Celeron CPUs which are not far from the expensive brands but which cost a lot less. For new servers, these shouldn't be taken into consideration, though.

Conclusion

There is a strong discrepancy between the brand name and the actual line the CPU belongs to. While this is important for marketing reasons (future lines must "fit into" a brand), the current allocation of the different lines to brands is not intuitive.
The Core i7 brand contains three different lines, one of them also being sold as Core i5. Luckily, any Core i7 is a good choice, so this grouping creates no risk for the customer.
The same is not true for the Core i5. When one purchases a machine with a Core i5 CPU, one must really look into the details not to end up with a Clarkfield CPU which is much weaker than its Lynnfield brother.
The existence of the Core i3 brand seems not too reasonable, either. At this point of time, one might wonder why there is a need for a third brand when it only contains CPUs of a line which is also sold as Core i5. From a long term marketing perspective, it certainly is required, though, as there most likely will be lines only sold as Core i3.
Finally, when buying a new Pentium or Celeron CPU, one really needs to make sure what one is purchasing since the brand name pretty much is a wild card.

My personal bottom line (and this might not be the right thing for everybody) was to get a Core i7, which is the best choice at the moment and one can't do anything wrong.

Next Part: Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Xeons, Atom and virtualization

Posted by: Mike | Tagged as: , , , , , , , , No Comments