Posts Tagged ‘beckton’

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Quick Take: IBM Tops VMmark, Crushes Record with 4P Nehalem-EX

April 7, 2010

It was merely a matter of time before one of the new core-rich titans – the Intel’s 8-core “Beckton” Nehalem-EX (Xeon 7500) or AMD’s 12-core “Magny-Cours” (Opteron 6100) – was to make a name for itself on VMware’s VMmark benchmark. Today, Intel draws first blood in the form of an 4-processor, 32-core, 64-thread, monster from IBM: the x3850 X5 running four Xeon X7560 (2.266GHz – 2.67GHz w/turbo, 130W TDP, each) and 384GB of DDR3-1066 low-power registered DIMMs. Weighing-in at 70.78@48 tiles, the 4P IBM System x3850 handily beats the next highest system – the 48-core DL785 G5 which set the record of 53.73@35 tiles back in August, 2009 – and bests it by over 30%.

At $3,800+ per socket for the tested Beckton chip, this is no real 2P alternative. In fact, a pair of Cisco UCS B250 M2 blades will get 52 tiles running for much less money. Looking at processor and memory configurations alone, this is a $67K+ enterprise server, resulting in a moderately-high $232/VM price point for the IBM x3850 X5.

SOLORI’s Take: The most interesting aspect of the EX benchmark is its clock-adjusted scaling factor: between 70% and 91% versus a 2P/8-core Nehalem-EP reference (Cisco UCS, B200 M1, 25.06@17 tiles). The unpredictable nature of Intel’s “turbo” feature – varying with thermal loads and per-core conditions – makes an exact clock-for-clock comparison difficult. However, if the scaling factor is 90%, the EX blows away our previous expectations about the platform’s scalability. Where did we go wrong when we predicted a conservative 44@39 tiles? We’re looking at three things: (1) a bad assumption about the effectiveness of “turbo” in the EP VMmark case (setting Ref_EP_Clock to 3.33 GHz), and (2) underestimating EX’s scaling efficiency (assumed 70%), (3) assuming a 2.26GHz clock for EX.

Chosing our minimum QPI/HT3 scalability factor of 75%, the predicted performance was derived this way from HP Proliant BL490 G6 as a baseline:

Est. Tiles = EP_Tiles_per_core( 2.13 ) * 32 cores * Scaling_Efficiency( 75% ) * EX_Clock( 2.26 ) / EP_Clock( 2.93 ) = 39 tiles

Est. Score = Est_Tiles( 40 ) * EP_Score_per_Tile( 1.43 ) * Est_EX_Clock( 2.26 ) / Ref_EP_Clock( 2.93 ) = 44.12

Est. Nehalem-EX VMmark -> 44.12@39 tiles

Correcting for the as-tested clock/turbo numbers, and using AMD’s 2P-to-4P VMmark scaling efficiency of 83%, and shifting to the new UCS baseline (with newer ESX version) the Nehalem-EX prediction factors to:

Est. Tiles = EP_Tiles_per_core( 2.13 ) * 32 cores * Scaling_Efficiency( 83% ) * EX_Clock( 2.67 ) / EP_Clock( 2.93 ) = 51 tiles

Est. Score = Est_Tiles( 51 ) * EP_Score_per_Tile( 1.47 ) * Est_EX_Clock( 2.67 ) / Ref_EP_Clock( 2.93 ) = 68.32

Est. Nehalem-EX VMmark -> 68.3@51 tiles

Clearly, this approach either overestimates the scaling efficiency or underestimates the “turbo” mode. IBM claims that a 2.93 GHz “turbo” setting is viable where Intel suggests 2.67 GHz is the maximum, so there is a source of potential bias. Looking at the tiles-per-core ratio of the VMmark result, the Nehalem-EX drops from 2.13 tiles per core on EP/2P platforms to 1.5 tiles per core on EX/4P platforms – about a 30% drop in per-core loading efficiency. That indicator matches well with our initial 75% scaling efficiency moving from 2P to 4P – something that AMD demonstrated with Istanbul last August. Given the high TDP of EX and IBM’s 2.93 GHz “turbo” specification, it’s possible that “turbo” is adding clock cycles (and power consumption) and compensating for a “lower” scaling efficiency than we’ve assumed. Looking at the same estimation with 2.93GHz “clock” and 71% efficiency (1.5/2.13), the numbers fall in line with VMmark:

Est. Tiles = EP_Tiles_per_core( 2.13 ) * 32 cores * Scaling_Efficiency( 71% ) * EX_Clock( 2.93 ) / EP_Clock( 2.93 ) = 48 tiles

Est. Score = Est_Tiles( 48 ) * EP_Score_per_Tile( 1.47 ) * Est_EX_Clock( 2.93 ) / Ref_EP_Clock( 2.93 ) = 70.56

Est. Nehalem-EX VMmark -> 70.56@48 tiles

This give us a good basis for evaluating 2P vs. 4P Nehalem systems: scaling factor of 71% and capable of pushing clock towards the 3GHz mark within its thermal envelope. Both of these conclusions fit typical 2P-to-4P norms and Intel’s process history.

SOLORI’s 2nd Take: So where does that leave AMD’s newest 12-core chip? To date, no VMmark exists for AMD’s Magny-Cours, and AMD chips tend not to do as well in VMmark as their Intel peers do to the benchmarks SMT-friendly loads. However, we can’t resist using the same analysis against AMD/MC’s 2.4GHz Opteron 6174SE (theoretical) using the 2P HP DL385 G6 as a baseline for core loading and the HP DL785 G6 for tile performance (best of the best cases):

Est. Tiles = HP_Tiles_per_core( 0.92 ) * 48 cores * Scaling_Efficiency( 83% ) * MC_Clock( 2.3 ) / HP_Clock( 2.6 ) = 33 tiles

Est. Score = Est_Tiles( 34 ) * HP_Score_per_Tile( 1.54 ) * Est_MC_Clock( 2.3 ) / Ref_HP_Clock( 2.8 ) = 41.8

Est. 4P Magny-Cours VMmark -> 41.8@33 tiles

That’s nowhere near good enough to top the current 8P, 48-core Istanbul VMmark at 53.73@35 tiles, so we’ll likely have to wait for faster 6100 parts to see any new AMD records. However, assuming AMD’s proposition is still “value 4P” so about 200 VM’s at under $18K/server gets you around $90/VM or less.

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Quick Take: 6-core “Gulftown” Nehalem-EP Spotted, Tested

August 10, 2009

TechReport is reporting on a Taiwanese overclocker who may be testing a pair of Nehalem 6-core processors (2P) slated for release early in 2010. Likewise, AlienBabelTech mentions a Chinese website, HKEPC, that has preliminary testing completed on the desktop (1P) variant of the 6-core. While these could be different 32nm silicon parts, it is more likely – judging from the CPU-Z outputs and provided package pictures – that these are the same sample SKUs tested as 1P and 2P LGA-1366 components.

CPUzWhat does this mean for AMD and the only 6-core shipping today? Since Intel’s still projecting Q2/2010 for the server part, AMD has a decent opportunity to grow market share for Istanbul. Intel’s biggest rival will be itself – facing a wildly growing number of SKU’s in across its i-line from i5, i7, i8 and i9 “families” with multiple speed and feature variants. Clearly, the non-HT version would stand as a direct competitor to Istanbul’s native 6-core SKUs. Likewise, Istanbul may be no match for the 6-core Nehalem with HT and “turbo core” feature set.

However, with an 8-core “Beckton” Nehalem variant on the horizon, it might be hard to understand just where the Gulftown fits in Intel’s picture. Intel faces a serious production issue, filling fab capacity with 4-core, 6-core and 8-core processors, each with speed, power, socket and HT variants from which to supply high-speed, high-power SKUs and lower-speed, low-power SKUs for 1P, 2P and 4P+ destinations. Doing the simple math with 3 SKU’s per part Intel would be offering the market a minimum of 18 base parts according to their current marketing strategy: 9 with HT/turbo, 9 without HT/turbo. For socket LGA-1366, this could easily mean 40+ SKUs with 1xQPI and 2xQPI variants included (up from 23).

SOLORI’s take: Intel will have to create some interesting “crippling or pricing tricks” to keep Gulftown from canibalizing the Gainstown market. If they follow their “normal” play book, we prodict the next 10-months will play out like this:

  1. Initially there will be no 8-core product for 1P and 2P systems (LGA-1366), allowing for artificially high margins on the 8-core EX chip (LGA-1567), slowing the enevitable canibalization of the 4-core/2P market, and easing production burdens;
  2. Intel will silently and abruptly kill Itanium in favor of “hyper-scale” Nehalem-EX variants;
  3. Gulftown will remain high-power (90-130W TDP) and be positioned against AMD’s G34 systems and Magny-Cours – plotting 12-core against 12-thread;
  4. Intel creates a “socket refresh” (LGA-1566?) to enable “inexpensive” 2P-4P platforms from its Gulftown/Beckton line-up in 2H/2010 (ostensibly to maintain parity with G34) without hurting EX;
  5. Revised, lower-power variants of Gainstown will be positioned against AMD’s C32 target market;
  6. Intel will cut SKUs in favor of higher margins, increasing speed and features for “same dollar” cost;
  7. Non-HT parts will begin to disappear in 4-core configurations completely;
  8. Intel’s AES enhancements in Gulftown will allow it to further differentiate itself in storage and security markets;

It would be a mistake for Intel to continue growing SKU count or provide too much overlap between 4-core HT and 6-core non-HT offerings. If purchasing trends soften in 4Q/09 and remain (relatively) flat through 2Q/10, Intel will benefit from a leaner, well differentiated line-up. AMD has already announced a “leaner” plan for G34/C32. If all goes well at the fabs, 1H/2010 will be a good ole fashioned street fight between blue and green.