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Quick Take: VMware – Shanghai vs. Nehalem-EP

April 26, 2009

Johan De Gelas at AnandTech has an interesting article comparing a 2P Shanghai (2384, 2.7GHz) vs. 2P Nehalem-EP (X5570, 2.93GHz) and the comparison in VMark is stunning… until you do you do your homework and reference the results. Johan is comparing the VMmark of a 64GB configured 2P Opteron running ESX3.5-Update 3 against a 72GB configured 2P Nehalem-EP running vSphere (ESX v4.0).

When I see benchmarks like these quoted by AnandTech I start to wonder why they consider the results “analytical…” In any case, there are significant ramifications to larger memory pools and higher clock speeds in VMmark, and these results show that fact. Additionally, the results also seem to indicate:

  • VMware vSphere (ESX v4.0) takes serious advantage of the new hyperthreading in Nehalem-EP
  • Nehalem-EP’s TurboBoost Appears to render the value proposition in favor of the X5570 over the W5580, all things considered

Judging from the Supermicro VMmark score, the Nehalem-EP (adjusted for differences in processor speed) turns-in about a 6% performance advantage over the Shanghai with comparable memory footprints. Had the Opteron been given additional memory, perhaps the tile and benchmark scores would have better illustrated this conclusion. It is unclear whether or not vSphere is significantly more efficient at resource scheduling, but the results seem to indicate that – at least with Nehalem’s new hyperthreading – it is more efficient.

Platform Memory VMware Version VMmark Score Rating
(Raw/
Clock Adj.)
Per Tile
HP ProLiant
385G5p

(2xOpteron 2384, 2.7GHz)
64GB DDR2/533 ESX v3.5.0 Update 3 11.28
@8 tiles
100%/
100%
100%
Supermicro
6026-NTR+
(2xX5570, 2.93GHz w/3.2GHz TurboBoost)
72GB DDR3/1066 ESX v3.5.0 Update 4 BETA 14.22
@10 tiles
126%/
106%
101%
Dell PowerEdge
M610

(2xX5570, 2.93GHz w/3.3GHz TurboBoost)
96GB DDR3/1066 ESX v4.0 23.90
@17tiles
212%/
174%
100%
HP ProLiant
DL370 G6

(2xW5580, 3.2GHz w/3.3GHz TurboBoost)
96GB DDR3/1066 ESX v4.0 23.96
@16tiles
213%/
172%
106%
HP ProLiant
DL585 G5
(4x8386SE, 2.8GHz)
128GB DDR2/667 ESX v3.5.0 Update 3 20.43
@14 tiles
181%/
174%
104%
HP ProLiant
DL585 G5
(4x8393SE, 3.1GHz)
128GB DDR2/667 ESX v4.0 22.11
@15 tiles
196%/
171%
105%

One things is clear from these VMmark examples: Nehalem-EP is a huge step in the right direction for Intel, and it potentially blurs the line between 2P and 4P systems. AMD will not have much breathing room with Istanbul in the 2P space against Nehalem-EP for system refreshes unless it can show similar gains and scalability. Where Istanbul will shine is in its drop-in capability in existing 2P, 4P and 8P platforms.

SOLORI’s take: These are exciting times for those just getting into virtualization. VMmark would seem to indicate that consolidation factors unlocked by Nehalem-EP come close to rivaling 4P platforms at about 75% of the cost. If I were buying a new system today, I would be hard-pressed to ignore Nehalem as a basis for my Eco-system. However, the socket-F Opteron systems still has about 8-12 months of competitive life in it, at which point it becomes just another workhorse. Nehalem-EP still does not provide enough incentive to shatter an established Eco-system.

SOLORI’s 2nd take: AMD has a lot of ground to cover with Istanbul and Magny-Cours in the few short months that remain in 2009. The “hearts and minds” of system refresh and new entrants into virtualization are at stake and Nehalem-EP offers some conclusive value to those entering the market.

With entrenched customers, AMD needs to avoid making them feel “left behind” before the market shifts definitively. AMD could do worse than getting some SR5690-based Istanbul platforms out on the VMmark circuit – especially with its HP and Supermicro partners. We’d also like to see some Magny-Cours VMmarks prior to the general availability of the G34 systems.

3 comments

  1. Corrections to syntax.

    Added to “take”:

    However, the socket-F Opteron systems still has about 8-12 months of competitive life in it, at which point it becomes just another workhorse. Nehalem-EP still does not provide enough incentive to shatter an established Eco-system.

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  2. […] groups – especially in the area of supported speed ratings: often in the context of comparison to Opteron’s need to reduce supported DIMM speed ratings based on slot population. While it is true Nehalem’s 3-channel design allows for a mixture of […]

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  3. […] some ground of legacy “physical core” systems, demonstrating what appears to be a linear scaling in VMmark. However, Intel has a fine reputation for chasing – and mastering – benchmark performance only to […]

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