Archive for the ‘Ethics and Technology’ Category

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Quick Take: AMD Releases SE/HE Six-Cores

July 14, 2009

Today AMD published pricing for 5 new Istanbul SKUs – two designated as 105W APC high-performance SE and three as 55W APC low-power HE models.

In the SE category, the 2439SE and 8439SE at 2.8GHz replace the top-bin 2435/8435 Istanbul which occupies the 2.6GHz, 75W APC bin. Besides the clock frequency changes, maximum CPU temp is reduced from 76C to 71C. As with all other Istanbul’s so far, these are HT3 bus parts running at 4.8GT/s. Price per socket has been announced at $1,019 and $2,649 for the 2439SE and 8439SE, respectively.

While the new SE parts do little to help the Opteron surpass the X5560 in raw performance, they fit well into the price-performance picture for AMD so long as street prices for the X5560 continue to hover in the $1,200-1,300 range.

SPECint_rate2006 - AMD Istanbul SE SKU's

SPECint_rate2006 - AMD Istanbul SE SKU's

In the HE category, the 2425HE/8425HE and 2423HE are new clock speed bins running at 2.1GHz and 2.0GHz, respectively. These parts maintain the same 76C maximum CPU temp as the normal 75W ACP parts, but are selected to consume just 55W ACP. Again, these SKU’s also carry the 4.8GT/s HT3 bus of their Istanbul brethren. Pricing per socket has been announced at $523 and $1,514 for the 2425HE and 8425HE, respectively, with the 2423 HE targeted at $455 each.

SPECint_rate2006 - AMD Istanbul HE SKU's

SPECint_rate2006 - AMD Istanbul HE SKU's

Here, AMD’s lower power target and pricing help the chip maker do some profit-taking as the price-performance of the HE parts appear to offer a measurable advantage over the L5506 (60W TDP) which is circling the $475 region (street price). See AMD’s official press release about High Energy Efficiency and the Processing Power of Six-Cores for more details.

SOLORI’s Take: AMD has expanded the Istanbul line with both high-performance and low-power SKU’s as promised. With DDR3 prices inching downward, AMD’s price-performance position is eroding slowly as Q3/2009 approaches. However, the 2-to-1 price penalty for top-bin Xeon/Nehalem platforms will take a lot more time to overcome, leaving the AMD the solid choice for budget conscious virtualization.

What’s perhaps more exciting for AMD followers – especially in the good-enough performance market – is sitting in the HE bin. The HE shows weakness in the 2P space, however, against the 2.26GHz L5520 part from Intel which sports 8 thread per CPU and can burst core speeds in excess of 3GHz with its “turbo” feature. This places the 2P 2425 HE somewhere in-between L5506 and L5520 in performance-per-watt, with 2425 HE maintaining a reasonable price-performance advantage.

In the unchallenged 4P space, the 8425 HE, at 2.1GHz and $1,580 (est. street price) offers nearly 3:2 power savings over the standard part offering 24-cores at a little over 200W ACP (4P configurations). This savings will help scale-out clouds both private and public.

(Note: SPEC CPU results gathered from published tables at http://spec.org.)

Updated 7/15/2009:  Added link to AMD’s press release.

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Lenovo Claims Top VMmark Spot: 2P, 8C

July 1, 2009

The new top spot for VMmark in the “8 core” category is now held by Lenovo’s R525 G2 rack server with a score of 24.35@17 tiles (tile ratio of 1.43 over 102 VMs). As this server appears to be available in the overseas (China) markets only, we can only estimate the street price of the system used in the benchmark based on the reported build-out at to be around $20,330 per server (street):

  • Base Lenovo R525 G2 ($4,900 – 30,000 yuan)
  • 2 x Intel Xeon X5570 Processors ($1,500/ea)
  • 96GB ECC DDR3/1066 (12x8GB) ($900/DIMM from Kingston)
  • 1 x Intel 82575EB dual-port GigabitEthernet (on-board)
  • 2 x Intel 82571EB dual-port GigabitEthernet (2x PCIe slot, $150/ea)
  • 1 x QLogic QLE2462 FC HBA (1x PCIe slot, $1,300)
  • 1 x LSI1078 SAS Controller (on-board)
  • 2 x SAS OS drive ($300 est.)

An EMC CX3-40f was used as the storage backing of the test. The storage system included 4GB cache, 4 enclosures and 55 146GB 15K FC disks (10, 15, 15, 15), and 17 LUNs at 100GB each. Interestingly, a Cisco Linksys SR2024 GigabitEthernet switch was used for the network interconnection (about $299/each at NewEgg) which implies that test results are not being influenced on network performance or latency. Given the use of a 2-port FC HBA for storage, iSCSI network performance is not a factor.

At about $1,094/tile ($182/VM) the new “top dog” delivers its best at a 5% price-per-VM premium over Istanbul’s only VMmark results (1.41 tile ratio) and an 80% system price premium (assuming memory sourced by third parties).  Since we had to go to the street to configure the Lenovo system, the Istanbul system saves about $1,570 [in mark-up] under similar (non-vendor pricing) circumstances:

  • Base HP DL385 G6  ($5,100)
  • 2 x AMD 2435 Istanbul Processors (included)
  • 64GB ECC DDR2/800 (8x8GB) ($370/DIMM)
  • 2 x Broadcom 5709 dual-port GigabitEthernet (on-board)
  • 1 x Intel 82571EB dual-port GigabitEthernet (1x PCIe slot, $150/ea)
  • 1 x QLogic QLE2462 FC HBA (1x PCIe slot, $1,300)
  • 1 x HP SAS Controller (on-board)
  • 2 x SAS OS drive (included)
  • $9,810/system total (versus $11,378 complete from HP)

Street pricing changes Istanbul’s numbers to $892/tile ($149/VM) signifying a 22% per-VM savings and a 52% savings in system price. Given that virtualization systems are generally sold in pairs, this comparison shows that a redundant Istanbul system can be had for less than the cost of a non-redundant Nehalem. For SMB’s getting started in virtualization, Istanbul continues to offer a compelling system value proposition over Nehalem.

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AMD Istanbul and Intel Nehalem-EP: Street Prices

June 22, 2009

It’s been three weeks after the official launch of AMD’s 6-core Istanbul processor and we wanted to take a look at prevailing street prices for the DIY upgrade option.

Istanbul Pricing (Street)

AMD “Istanbul” Opteron™ Processor Family
2400 Series Price 8400 Series Price
2.6GHz Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 2435 (75W ACP)
$1060.77 2.6GHz Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 8435 (75W ACP)
$2,842.14
2.4GHz Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 2431 (75W ACP)
$743.74
$699.00
2.4GHz Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 8431 (75W ACP)
$2,305.70
2.2GHx Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 2427 (75W ACP)
$483.82
$499.99

Nehalem-EP/EX Pricing (Street)

After almost two months on the market, the Nehalem has been on the street long enough to see a 1-3% drop in prices. How does Istanbul stack-up against the Nehalem-EP/Xeon pricing?

Intel “Nehalem” Xeon Processor Family
EP Series Price EX Series Price
2.66GHz Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EP X5550 (95W TDP) $999.95
$999.99
Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EX TDB
2.4GHz Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EP E5530 (80W TDP) $548.66
$549.99
Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EX TBD
2.26GHz Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EP E5520 (80W TDP) $400.15
$379.99
2.26GHz Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EP L5520 (60W TDP) $558.77
$559.99

Compared to the competing Nehalem SKU’s, the Istanbul is fetching a premium price. This is likely due to the what AMD perceives to be the broader market that Istanbul is capable of serving (and its relative newness relative to demand, et al). Of course, there are no Xeon Nehalem-EX SKU’s in supply to compare against Istanbul in the 4P and 8P segments, but in 2P, it appears Istanbul is running 6% higher at the top bin SKU and 27% higher at the lower bin SKU – with the exception of the 60W TDP part, upon which Intel demands a 13% premium over the 2.2GHz Istanbul part.

This last SKU is the “green datacenter” battleground part. Since the higher priced 2.6GHz Istanbul rates a 15W (ACP) premium over the L5520, it will be interesting to see if system integrators will compare it to the low-power Xeon in power-performance implementations. Comparing SPECpower_ssj2008 between similarly configured Xeon L5520 and X5570, the performance-per-watt is within 2% for relatively anemic, dual-channel 8GB memory configurations.

In a virtualization system, this memory configuration would jump from an unusable 8GB to at least 48GB, increasing average power consumption by another 45-55W and dropping the performance-per-watt ratio by about 25%. Looking at the relative performance-per-watt of the Nehalem-EP as compared to the Istanbul in TechReport’s findings earlier this month, one could extrapolate that the virtualization performance-per-watt for Istanbul is very competitive – even with the lower-power Xeon – in large memory configurations. We’ll have to wait for similar SPECpower_ssj2008 in 4P configurations to know for sure.

System Memory Pricing (Street)

System memory represents 15-20% of system pricing – more in very large memory foot prints. We’ve indicated that Istanbul’s time-to-market strategy shows a clear advantage (CAPEX) in memory pricing alone – more than compensating for the slight premium in CPU pricing.

System Memory Pricing
DDR2 Series (1.8V) Price DDR3 Series (1.5V) Price

4GB 800MHz DDR2 ECC Reg with Parity CL6 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 (5.4W)
$100.00

4GB 1333MHz DDR3 ECC Reg w/Parity CL9 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 w/Therm Sen (3.96W)

$138.00

4GB 667MHz DDR2 ECC Reg with Parity CL5 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 (5.94W)
$80.00

4GB 1066MHz DDR3 ECC Reg w/Parity CL7 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 w/Therm Sen (5.09W)
$132.00

8GB 667MHz DDR2 ECC Reg with Parity CL5 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 (7.236W)
$396.00

8GB 1066MHz DDR3 ECC Reg w/Parity CL7 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 w/Therm Sen (6.36W)
$1035.00

These parts show a 28%, 40% and 62% premium price for DDR3 components versus DDR2 which indicates Istanbul’s savings window is still wide-open. Since DDR3 prices are not expected to fall until Q3 at the earliest, this cost differential is expected to influence “private cloud” virtualization systems more strongly. However, with the 0.3V lower voltage requirement on the DDR3 modules, Nehalem-EP actually has a slight adavantage from a operational power perspective in dual-channel configurations. When using tripple-channel for the same memory footprint, Nehalem-EP’s memory consumes about 58% more power (4x8GB vs. 9x4GB).

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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 3.5.0.0) 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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Dell Posts Top 4P/16-core VMmark

June 21, 2009

Dell has posted a new VMmark for its PowerEdge M905 series with a score of 22.90@17 tiles for a 4P Opteron 8393 SE based system. Although newly posted on VMware’s VMmark scoreboard, this test was performed on ESX 4.0 (build 159706) and completed May 19, 2009. This is the the first time a 4P Opteron system has exceeded 1-tile-per-core to achieve the highest composite score and bests the previous high score – a Dell R905 – by 1% and 1 tile (102 virtual machines total).

Dell’s M905 was fitted with 128GB of PC2-5300 (DDR2/667) registered ECC memory, 4 on-board Broadcom NetXtreme 1Gbps, and a QLogic QLE2462 FC adapter for virtual machine storage. Three Dell/EMC CX3-4of’s were used including 6 enclosures with 15 disks per enclosure to deliver 18 LUNx (6 per enclosure, 90 physical disks total.)

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First 48-core VMmark Appears

June 18, 2009

Following in the footsteps of the first 12-core VMmark comes the current champion at 33.85@24 tiles using 48-cores – and, despite the timing, it is not an Istanbul server. In fact, today’s leader is the IBM System x3950 M2 running 8, 6-core Intel Xeon MP “Dunnington” X7460 processors with 256GB DDR2/667 RAM (5.3GB/core).

This score edges-out the previous champion – the HP ProLiant DL785 G5 with 8, 4-core Opteron 8393SE processors – which reigned at 31.56@21 tiles. In contrast to the 4-socket, 24-core IBM System x3850 M2 Xeon leading the 24-core category, this doubling of socket/core count resulted in only a 50% increase in capacity. This scaling inefficiency is less typical in 2P-to-4P transition but seems to plague the 4p-to-8P segment.

“The x3950 M2 is based on the fourth generation of IBM Enterprise X-Architecture®, and is designed to deliver innovation with enhanced reliability and availability features that enable optimal performance for databases, enterprise applications and virtualized environments.”

IBM News Blurb

“I’m really looking forward to even more virtualization benchmarks which are coming very soon.”

– Elisabeth Stahl, IBM Benchmarking and Systems Performance Blog

Looking at the virtualization notes we discover what it takes to keep 48-cores fed to achieve such a benchmark:

  • 4-QLogic QLE2462 HBA’s (Dual-port, 4-Gbps FC)
  • 1-IBM DS4800 with 4GB cache
    • 19 EXP 810 storage expansion units for
    • 1.8TB in 49 LUNs
      • 280 15K disks total
  • 21 IBM x336 clients
    • DP 3.2GHz Xeon
    • 3GB RAM
    • Server 2003 R2
  • 2 IBM x335 clients
    • DP Xeon 3.06GHz
    • 2.5GB RAM
    • Server 2003 R2
  • Eight vSwitches
    • 120 ports total
  • 4 Intel PRO 1000PT Dual-port 1Gb Ethernet controllers
    • one per vSwitch

While the Dunnington tops the list by sheer brute force, it’s safe to assume that – given the 32-core Opteron is nipping at its heels – the 48-core Istanbul results will displace it soon (possibly alluded to in Elisabeth Stahl’s “Benchmarking and Performance Blog” reference above). More interestingly, will AMD’s much touted “HT Assist” allow the 8P Istanbul to break the 4P-to-8P “curse” of scaling inefficiency? If not, it would show that much work is needed before the relatively “massive ” core counts of 2010 are upon us.

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First 12-core VMmark for Istanbul Appears

June 10, 2009

VMware has posted the VMmark score for the first Istanbul-based system and it’s from HP: the ProLiant DL385 G6. While it’s not at the top of the VMmark chart at 15.54@11 tiles (technically it is at the top of the 12-core benchmark list), it still shows a compelling price-performance picture.

Comparing Istanbul’s VMmark Scores

For comparison’s sake, we’ve chosen the HP DL385 G5 and HP DL380 G6 as they were configured for their VMmark tests. In the case of the ProLiant DL380 G6, we could only configure the X5560 and not the X5570 as tested so the price is actually LOWER on the DL380 G6 than the “as tested” configuration. Likewise, we chose the PC-6400 (DDR2/667, 8x8GB) memory for the DL 385 G5 versus the more expensive PC-5300 (533) memory as configured in 2008.

As configured for pricing, each system comes with processor, memory, 2-SATA drives and VMware Infrastructure Standard for 2-processors. Note that in testing, additional NIC’s, HBA, and storage are configured and such additions are not included herein. We have omitted these additional equipment features as they would be common to a deployment set and have no real influence on relative pricing.

Systems as Configured for Pricing Comparison

System Processor Speed Cores Threads Memory Speed Street
HP ProLiant DL385 G5 Opteron 2384 2.7 8 8 64 667 $10,877.00
HP ProLiant DL385 G6 Opteron 2435 2.6 12 12 64 667 $11,378.00
HP ProLiant DL380 G6 Xeon X5560* 2.93 8 16 96 1066 $30,741.00

Here’s some good news: 50% more cores for only 5% more (sound like an economic stimulus?) The comparison Nehalem-EP is nearly 3x the Istanbul system in price.

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