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RIP Dunnington: HP’s 4P/24-core Istanbul Takes VMmark Summit

July 15, 2009
HP has simultaneously achieved two near identical VMmark scores with their ProLiant DL585 G6 rack server and ProLiant BL685c G6 blade, claiming the summit from the reigning 24-core champion. Since first establishing the 24-core tier VMmark in September 2009, the Intel “Dunnington” 6-core processor (FSB architecture) has gone unchallenged. Now, with the release of the Opteron 8439SE raising the performance bar and the Opteron 8435 making a clear price-performance case, Dunnington’s vacation is over.

Today’s Istanbul-based achievements – established in the same memory footprint as the top Dunnington – renders the venerable processor all but obsolete, besting the champ by 4 tiles (24 more virtual machines) with a score-tile ratio of 1.5 for the rack system and 1.46 (same as the Dunnington at 14 tiles) for the blade. Using the HP and IBM on-line configuration tools, we established the retail (on-line) price for each system – down to the Fiber Channel HBA’s – and compared them for $/VM value. Here are the results:

HP DL685 G6 HP BL685c G6 IBM x3850 M2
Processor 4x Opteron 8439SE 2.8GHz 4x Opteron 8435 2.6GHz 4x Xeon X7460 2.67GHz
Memory 128GB (16x8GB PC2-5300 Reg ECC) 128GB (16x8GB PC2-5300 Reg ECC) 128GB (32x4GB PC2-5300 Reg ECC)
LAN Controllers 1x Dual-Port NC371i 1Gbps,
3x Dual-Port NC380T 1Gbps
2x Dual-Port NC532i Flex-10 10Gbs,
1x Dual-Port NC360m 1Gbps
2x Intel PRO 1000PT Dual-Port 1Gbps
HBA Qlogic QMH2462 Dual-Port FC Qlogic QMH2462 Dual-Port FC 2x Qlogic QMH2462 Dual-Port FC
OS RAID Controller HP Smart Array P800 HP Smart Array P400i HBA
OS Disks 2x 73Gb SAS 10K 2x 73Gb SAS 10K SAN
On-line Price $36,862.00 $35,296.00 $34,269.00
On-line w/3rd Party Memory $28,712.00 $27,356.00 $33,207.00
VMmark Results 29.95@20 tiles 29.19@20 tiles 20.5@14 tiles
VMmark Tile Ratio 1.5 1.46 1.46
Cost/VM Retail $307.18 $294.13 $407.96
Cost/VM 3rd Party $239.27 $227.97 $276.73

The results indicate a 21-38% savings per-VM for Istanbul over Dunnington in the 4P/24-core virtualization space. This is bread-and-butter territory for VDI implementations and SQL virtualizations, and Intel’s last remaining market place for the Dunnington processor. With the top-bin Istanbul weighing-in with 3% better performance, 18% less power consumption and 30% more capacity against Dunnington at the same price point, Intel’s 4P gambit is played-out and Nehalem-EX cannot arrive too soon for Intel.

It is worth asking the question: does the HP ProLiant 4P/24-core offer the best value? The answer depends on the value proposition. From a straight $/VM vantage point, the HP DL385 G6 comparison demonstrated a more economical $182/VM – a difference of $40/VM lower than the BL685c G6 – so the 2P rack system still comes out on top for the absolute bottom-line concious. However, for applications like SQL consolidations, the additional savings in licensing on 4P platforms versus 2P platforms dwarfs this differential.

What is clear: AMD’s Istanbul solution will remain unchallenged in the 4P space both in raw performance and in price-performance until Nehalem-EX is delivered. That means if Nehalem-EX does not arrive in Q3/2009, the market will likely wait for Q1/2010 to make any long-term purchasing decisions in anticipation of the new platforms slated to break-in the new year.

3 comments

  1. Why compare against IBM’s Dunnington offering ? Why not HP’s own DL580 G5 server ?

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    • Satish,

      The choice of IBM’s x3850M2 was due to it being the top-ranked Dunnington on the VMmark 24-core performance scale. The x3850M2 is also the highest scoring 24-core Dunnington systems running vSphere. You must go 8-places down the chart to find the DL580 G5, but I think I understand your reasoning so I’ll indulge the thread:

      From HP’s site, a DL580 G5 – configured as its VMmark contender scoring 18.56@14 tiles – weighs-in at about $29,000. That’s a best case $/VM of $345.24 at 10% hit in per-VM performance. Likewise, the DL580 G5 test was conducted with ESX 3.5 making it less of a apples-apples comparison as the two ESX 4.0 contenders chosen.

      Intel has positioned Dunnington systems as the best solution for higher consolidation ratios and 4P+ configurations. With Istanbul available today, and Nehalem-EX available in 1H/2010, vendors will have a hard time selling any new Dunnington-based systems given the obvious price-performance advantage of the alternative choices. In a very real commercial sense, Dunnington is a dead-end.

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  2. […] Not available until September 14, 2009, the HP DL785 G6 is a pricey competitor. We estimate – based on today’s processor and memory prices – that a system as well appointed as the VMmark-configured version (additional NICs, HBA, etc) will run at least $54,000 or around $300/VM (about $60/VM higher than the 24-core contender and about $35/VM lower than HP’s Dunnnigton “equivalent”). […]

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