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The Cost of Benchmarks

May 8, 2009

We’ve been challenged to backup our comparison of Nehalem-EP systems to Opteron Shanghai in price performance based on prevailing VMmark scores available on VMware’s site. In earlier posts, our analysis predicted “comparable” price-performance results between Shanghai and Nehalem-EP systems based on the economics of today’s memory and processors availability:

So what we’ve done here is taken the on-line configurations of some of the benchmark competitors. To make things very simple, we’ve just configured memory and CPU as tested – no HBA or 10GE cards to skew the results. The only exception – as pointed out by our challenger – is that we’ve taken the option of using “street price” memory where “street price” is better than the server manufacturer’s memory price.

Here’s our line-up:

System Processor Qty. Speed (GHz) Speed (GHz, Opt) Memory Configuration Street Price
Inspur NF5280 X5570 2 2.93 3.2 96GB (12x8GB) DDR3 1066 $18,668.58
Dell PowerEdge R710 X5570 2 2.93 3.2 96GB (12x8GB) DDR3 1066 $16,893.00
IBM System x 3650M2 X5570 2 2.93 3.2 96GB (12x8GB) DDR3 1066 $21,546.00
Dell PowerEdge M610 X5570 2 2.93 3.2 96GB (12x8GB) DDR3 1066 $21,561.00
HP ProLiant DL370 G6 W5580 2 3.2 3.2 96GB (12x8GB) DDR3 1066 $18,636.00
Dell PowerEdge R710 X5570 2 2.93 3.2 96GB (12x8GB) DDR3 1066 $16,893.00
Dell PowerEdge R805 2384 2 2.7 2.7 64GB (8x8GB) DDR2 533 $6,955.00
Dell PowerEdge R905 8384 4 2.7 2.7 128GB (16x8GB) DDR2 667 $11,385.00

Here we see Dell offering very aggressive DDR3/1066 pricing [for the R710] allowing us to go with on-line configurations, and HP offering overly expensive DDR2/667 memory prices (factor of 2) forcing us to go with 3rd party memory. In fact, IBM did not allow us to configure their memory configuration – as tested [with the 3650M2] – with their on-line configuration tool [neither did Dell with the M610] so we had to apply street memory prices. [Note: the So here’s how they rank with respect to VMmark:

System VMware Version Vmmark Score Vmmark Tiles Score/Tile Cost/Tile
Inspur NF5280 ESX Server 4.0 build 148592 23.45 17 1.38 $1,098.15
Dell PowerEdge R710 ESX Server 4.0 build 150817 23.55 16 1.47 $1,055.81
IBM System x 3650M2 ESX Server 4.0 build 148592 23.89 17 1.41 $1,267.41
Dell PowerEdge M610 ESX Server 4.0 23.9 17 1.41 $1,273.59
HP ProLiant DL370 G6 ESX Server 4.0 build 148783 23.96 16 1.50 $1,164.75
Dell PowerEdge R710 ESX Server 4.0 24 17 1.41 $993.71
Dell PowerEdge R805 ESX Server 3.5 U4 build 120079 11.22 8 1.40 $869.38
Dell PowerEdge R905 ESX Server 3.5 U3 build 120079 20.35 14 1.45 $813.21

As you can easily see, the cost-per-tile (analogous to $/VM) favors the Shanghai systems. In fact, the one system that we’ve taken criticism for including in our previous comparisons – the Supermicro 6026T-NTR+ with 72GB of DDR3/1066 (running at DDR3/800) – actually leads the pack in Nehalem-EP $/tile, but we’ve excluded it from our tables since it has been argued to be a “sub-optimal” configuration and out-lier. Again, the sweet spot for price-performance for Nehalem, Shanghai and Istanbul is in the 48GB to 80GB range with inexpensive memory: simple economics.

Please note, that not one of the 2P VMmark scores listed on VMware’s official VMmark results tally carry the Opteron 2393SE version of the processor (3.1GHz) or HT3-enabled motherboards. It is likely that we’ll not see HT3-enabled scores nor 2P ESX 4.0 scores until Istanbul’s release in the coming month. Again, if Shanghai’s $/tile is competitive with Nehalem’s today (again, in the 48GB to 80GB configurations), Istanbul – with the same memory and system costs – will be even more so.

Update: AMD’s Margaret Lewis has a similar take with comparison prices for AMD using DDR2/533 configurations. Her numbers – like our previous posts – resolve to $/VM, however she provides some good “street prices” for more “mainstream” configurations of Intel Nehalem-EP and AMD Shanghai systems. See her results and conclusions on AMD’s blog.

One comment

  1. Updated:

    Price shown for Dell M610 (blade) was actually Dell’s R610 (rack) server. The price and price per tile now correctly reflects the M610 blade configuration as used in the test (blade chassis not included).

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