ExtremeTech: Shanghai to Istanbul

June 22, 2009

ExtremeTech runs some tests on the AMD Istanbul 6-core processor and compares the 2435 (2.6GHz) part to the 2384 (2.7GHz) part in a drop-in replacement using PassMark and Spec_JBB2005. Testing was performed in the same Supermicro system running an updated (AGESA BIOS supporting Istanbul processors.

“Perhaps, the most tell tale result comes from the BOPS rating scored using SpecJBB2005, which simulates a server’s ability to process JAVA code. Here, there was a 20% increase in performance, with BOPS increasing from 380721 to 471440. That 20% performance boost would [definitely] be noticed on a busy server in a data center.”

Loyd Case, ExtremeTech.com

While not as thorough as Scott Wassman’s drop-in testing at TechReport (reported earlier this month), ExtremeTech’s results and conclusions were about the same: Istanbul makes a great upgrade processor.

“It all comes down to simple math, where one has to consider the cost of the CPUs and the time needed to perform an upgrade to see if the return on investment is worthwhile. Most will find that in this case, it is…”

– Lloyd Case, ExtremeTech

“And if you have existing, compatible Socket F servers, the Istanbul Opterons should be an excellent drop-in upgrade. They’re a no-brainer, really, when one considers energy costs and per-socket/per-server software licensing fees.”

Scott Wassman, TechReport

Both ExtremeTech and TechReport make compelling upgrade arguments in their testing. Compared to a new system architecture like Nehalem, it is logistically less disruptive – technologically and economically – to certify a CPU upgrade versus as platform replacement. After internal certification, a BIOS and CPU upgrade takes about 20-minutes per system to implement. In a virtualized datacenter where low-level differences are abstracted-away by the hypervisor certification testing should be much less invasive. Likewise, rolling upgrades in a virtualized datacenter with vMotion technology can provide a non-disruptive path from 4-core to 6-core. As Case puts it:

“Simply put, by just upgrading five servers in a data center, data center managers can eliminate the need to purchase an additional server to meet performance needs.”

Lloyd Case, ExtremeTech

However, this “upgrade proposition” is a difficult position for AMD as it does little to sell new systems. Historically, CPU upgrades only happen in 10-15% of the installed base, making CPU sales based on BIOS/drop-in upgrades an interesting footnote. Integrators want to move new hardware with Instanbul pre-installed, not sell “upgrade packages.” Perhaps the dynamics of the new economy will drive a statistical anomoly based on the strength of the Istanbul proposition. Datacenter managers face a familiar dilemma with some new twists.

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