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NEC Adds Top 48-Core, Dell Challenges 24-Core in VMmark Race

July 29, 2009

NEC’s venerable Express5800/A1160 tops the 48-core VMmark category today with a score of 34.05@24 tiles to wrest the title away from IBM who established the category back in June, 2009. NEC’s new “Dunnington” X7460 Xeon-based score represents a performance per tile ratio of 1.41 and a tile to core efficiency of 50% using 128GB of ECC DDR2 RAM.

Compared to the leading 24-core “Dunnington” results – held by IBM’s x3850 M2 at 20.41@14 tiles – the NEC benchmark sets a scalability factor of 85.7% when moving from 4-socket to 8-socket systems. Both servers from NEC and IBM are scalable systems allowing for multiple chassis to be interconnected to achieve greater CPU-per-system numbers – each scaling in 4-CPU increments – ostensibly for OLTP advantages. The NEC starts at around $70K for 128GB and 48-cores resulting in a $486/VM cost to VMmark.

Also released today, Dell’s PowerEdge R905 – with 24 2.8GHz Istanbul cores (8439 SE) and 128GB of ECC DDR2 RAM – secures the number two slot in the 24-category with a posting of 29.51@20 tiles. This represents a tile ratio of 1.475 and tile efficiency of 83.3% for the $29K rack server from Dell at about $240/VM. Compared to its 12-core counterpart, this represents a 91% scalability factor.

If AMD’s Istanbul scales to 8-socket at least as efficiently as Dunnington, we should be seeing some 48-core results in the 43.8@30 tile range in the next month or so from HP’s 785 G6 with 8-AMD 8439 SE processors. You might ask: what virtualization applications scale to 48-cores when $/VM is doubled at the same time? We don’t have that answer, and judging by Intel and AMD’s scale-by-hub designs coming in 2010, that market will need to be created at the OEM level.

Based on the performance we’re seeing in 8-socket systems relative to 4-socket and the upcoming “massively mult-core” processors in 2010, the law of diminishing returns seems to favor the 4-socket system as the limit for anything but massive OLTP workloads. Even then, we expect to see 48-core in a “4-way” box more efficient than the same number of cores in an 8-way box. The choice in virtualization will continue to be workload biased, with 2P systems offering the best “small footprint” $/VM solution and 4P systems offering the best “large footprint” $/VM solution.

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