Posts Tagged ‘nehalem-ep’

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Shanghai Economics 101 – Conclusion

May 6, 2009

In the past entries, we’ve looked only at the high-end processors as applied to system prices, and we’ll continue to use those as references through the end of this one. We’ll take a look at other price/performance tiers in a later blog, but we want to finish-up on the same footing as we began; again, with an eye to how these systems play in a virtualization environment.

We decided to finish this series with an analysis of  real world application instead of just theory. We keep seeing 8-to-1, 16-to-1 and 20-to-1 consolidation ratios (VM-to-host) being offered as “real world” in today’s environment so we wanted to analyze what that meant from an economic side.

The Fallacy of Consolidation Ratios

First, consolidation ratios that speak in terms of VM-to-host are not very informative. For instance, a 16-to-1 consolidation ratio sounds good until you realize it was achieved on an $16,000 4Px4C platform. This ratio results in a $1,000-per-VM cost to the consolidator.

In contrast, let’s take the same 16-to-1 ratio on a $6,000 2Px4C platform and it results in a $375-per-VM cost to the consolidator: a savings of nearly 60%. The key to the savings is in vCPU-to-Core consolidation ratio (provided sufficient memory exists to support it). In the first example that ratio was 1:1, but in the last example the ratio is 2:1. Can we find 16:1 vCPU-to-Core ratios out there? Sure, in test labs, but in the enterprise we think the valid range of vCPU-to-Core consolidation ratios is much more conservative, ranging from 1:1 to 8:1 with the average (or sweet spot) falling somewhere between 3:1 and 4:1.

Second, we must note that memory is a growing aspect of the virtualization equation. Modern operating systems no longer “sip” memory and 512MB for a Windows or Linux VM is becoming more an exception than a rule. That puts pressure on both CPU and memory capacity as driving forces for consolidation costs. As operating system “bloat” increases, administrative pressure to satisfy their needs will mount, pushing the “provisioned” amount of memory per VM ever higher.

Until “hot add” memory is part of DRS planning and the requisite operating systems support it, system admins will be forced to either over commit memory, purchase memory based on peak needs or purchase memory based on average memory needs and trust DRS systems to handle the balancing act. In any case, memory is a growing factor in systems consolidation and virtualization.

Modeling the Future

Using data from the Univerity of Chicago and as a baseline and extrapolating forward through 2010, we’ve developed a simple model to predict vMEM and vCPU allocation trends. This approach establishes three key metrics (already used in previous entries) that determine/predict system capacity: Average Memory/VM (vMVa), Average vCPU/VM (vCVa) and Average vCPU/Core (vCCa).

Average Memory per VM (vMVa)

Average memory per VM is determined by taking the allocated memory of all VM’s in a virtualized system – across all hosts – and dividing that by the total number of VM’s in the system (not including non-active templates.) This number is assumed to grow as virtualization moves from consolidation to standardized deployment. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Shanghai Economics 101

April 30, 2009

Before the release of the Istanbul 6-core processor we wanted to preview the CAPEX comparisons we’ve been working on between today’s Opteron (Shanghai) and today’s Nehalem-EP. The results are pretty startling and mostly due to the Nahelem-EP’s limited memory addressing capability. Here are the raw numbers for comparable performance systems (i.e. high-end):

Nehalem-EP Configuration Street $
Shanghai HT3 Configuration Street $
Savings $ Savings %
2P/8C, Nehalem-EP, W5580 3.2GHz, 6.4GT QPI with 24GB DDR3/1333 $7,017.69   2P/8C Shanghai, 2393 SE, 3.1GHz, 4.4GT HT3 with 32GB DDR2/800 $5,892.12   $1,125.57 16.04%
2P/8C, Nehalem-EP, W5580 3.2GHz, 6.4GT QPI with 48GB DDR3/1066 $7,755.99   2P/8C Shanghai, 2393 SE, 3.1GHz, 4.4GT HT3 with 48GB DDR2/800 $6,352.12   $1,403.87 18.10%
2P/8C, Nehalem-EP, W5580 3.2GHz, 6.4GT QPI with 96GB DDR3/1066 $21,969.99   2P/8C Shanghai, 2393 SE, 3.1GHz, 4.4GT HT3 with 96GB DDR2/667 $11,968.72   $10,001.27 45.52%
2P/8C, Nehalem-EP, W5580 3.2GHz, 6.4GT QPI with 144GB DDR3/800 $30,029.19   2P/8C Shanghai, 2393 SE, 3.1GHz, 4.4GT HT3 with 128GB DDR2/533 $14,300.92   $15,728.27 52.38%
               
2P/8C, Nehalem-EP, W5580 3.2GHz, 6.4GT QPI with 96GB DDR3/1066 $21,969.99   4P/16C Shanghai, 8393 SE, 3.1GHz, 4.4GT HT3 with 96GB DDR2/800 $17,512.87   $4,457.12 20.29%
2P/8C, Nehalem-EP, W5580 3.2GHz, 6.4GT QPI with 144GB DDR3/800 $30,029.19   4P/16C Shanghai, 8393 SE, 3.1GHz, 4.4GT HT3 with 192GB DDR2/667 $28,746.07   $1,283.12 4.27%
2 x 2P/8C, Nehalem-EP, W5580 3.2GHz, 6.4GT QPI with 144GB (288GB total) DDR3/800 $60,058.38   1 x 4P/16C Shanghai, 8393 SE, 3.1GHz, 4.4GT HT3 with 256GB DDR2/533 $33,410.47   $26,647.92 44.37%

Even the 4-socket Shanghai 8393SE averages 23% lower implementation cost over Nehalem-EP and produces 16 “real” cores versus 8 “real” cores in the process. Even at 50% theoretical efficiency using Nehalem’s SMT, the 4P Shanghai represents a solid choice in the performance segment. An Istanbul drop-in upgrade spread’s the gulf in capabilities even wider.

Based on today’s economics and the history of seamless vMotion between Opteron processors, 4P/24C Istanbul is a solid will be a no-brainer investment. With 2P/24C and 4P/48C Magny-Cours on the way to handle the “really big” tasks, a Shanghai-Istanbul Eco-System looks like an economic stimulus all its own.

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Clarification: Nehalem-EP and DDR3

April 29, 2009

I have seen a lot of contrasting comments about Nehalem-EP and memory speed on the community groups – especially in the area of supported speed ratings: often in the context of comparison to Opteron’s need to reduce supported DIMM speed ratings based on slot population. While it is true Nehalem’s 3-channel design allows for a mixture of performance (800/1066/1333) and capacity, it does not allow for both.

Here are the rules (from Intel’s “Intel Xeon Processor 5500 Series Datasheet, Volume 2“) based on DIMM per Channel (DPC):

  • 1-DPC = Support DDR3-1333 (if DIMM supports DDR3-1333)
    • KVR1333D3D4R9S/4G – $169/ea
    • 12GB/CPU max. @ $507/CPU (24GB/system max.)
  • 2-DPC = Support DDR3-1066 (if all DIMMs are rated DDR3-1066 or higher)
    • KVR1066D3D4R7S/4G – $138/ea
    • 24GB/CPU max. @ $828/CPU (48GB/system max.)
    • KVR1066D3Q4R7S/8G – $1,168/ea
    • 48GB/CPU max. @ $7,008/CPU (96GB/system max.)
    • “96GB Memory (12x8GB), 1066MHz Dual Ranked RDIMMs for 2 Processors,Optimized [add $15,400]” – Dell
  • 3-DPC = Support DDR3-800 only (if all DIMMs are rated DDR3-800 or higher)
    • KVR1066D3D4R7S/4G – $138/ea
    • 36GB/CPU max. @ $1,242/CPU (72GB/system max.)
    • “144GB Memory (18x8GB), 800MHz Dual Ranked RDIMMs for 2 Processors,Optimized [add $22,900]” – Dell

When the IMC detects the presence of 1, 2 or 3 DIMMs, these speed limits are imposed, regardless of the capabilities of the DIMM. A couple of other notable exceptions exist:

  • When one 4-rank DIMM is used, it must be populated in DIMM slot0 of a given channel (farthest from CPU);
  • Mixing of 4-rank DIMMs in one channel and 3-DIMMs in other channel (3-DPC) on the same CPU socket is not allowed – forcing BIOS to disable on the 4-rank channel;
  • RDIMM
    • Single-rank DIMM: 1-DPC, 2-DPC or 3-DPC
    • Dual-rank DIMM: 1-DPC, 2-DPC or 3-DPC
    • Quad-rank DIMM: 1-DPC or 2-DPC
  • UDIMM
    • Single-rank DIMM: 1-DPC or 2-DPC
    • Dual-rank DIMM: 1-DPC or 2-DPC
    • Quad-rank DIMM: n/a

Speed freaks be warned!

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Nehalem-EP: Your Best Consolidation Option?

April 21, 2009

Intel’s Nehalem is new and sexy, but currently limited to 2P platforms. This fact is forcing Intel to refer customers to their aging Xeon 7400 series (based on the older “Core” architecture, not Nehalem)  for 4P solutions and those seeking higher consolidation ratios. Still, leading equipment and solution vendors are scrambling to build offerings around the 2P-only Nehalem due to its significant value proposition over aging, dead-end Intel technology that can not keep-up in an increasingly virtualized world.

Intel asks you to “replace nine (single-core) servers” with one 2P Nehalem system and promises to “deliver ROI in 8-months” based on power savings alone. This “enhanced value proposition” is a compelling component of a solution providers’ foot-in-the-door strategy to lay-out system, storage and virtualization refreshes. The goal: higher consolidation rates and better virtualized performance promised by Nehalem (better results can be achieved with AMD Shanghai – see below). But with no 4P or 8P offerings is Nehalem the only option? Better yet, is it even a cost effective “refresh” option?

To understand the value proposition of Nehalem in an increasingly virtualized world, we need to identify the key benefits of the technology and how a single 2P system can replace 9 2P/1C systems. Simply put, Nehalem represents the most current virtualization hardware offering from Intel, finally bringing it to parity with AMD’s quad-core offering which has proved itself over the last 18-months. Its updated quad-cores, IPC, bus architecture and hardware assisted virtualization technologies deliver capabilities that older single-core systems can not match.

EPT and RVI – Hardware Virtualization Enhancements

AMD introduced its hardware assisted virtualization in 2006 with AMD-V (code named Pacifica) available in all processors supporting Socket-F and AM2 platforms (except the low-end Semperon). This technology enabled Xen-based hypervisors – lacking broad binary translation engines – to virtualize operating systems without modification. Intel later countered lead with Intel VT-x in its Itanium and Pentium D 662/672 desktop processors in 2005.  Intel added VT-x capability to Xeon processors in 2H/2006. Intel makes VT-x available in some Core and Core2 processors, Xeon 3000/5000/7000 and Core i7 processors. No Celeron, Pentium Dual-Core (prior to 662) or Pentium M processors have this feature. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Quick Take: New Car Syndrome

April 9, 2009

John De Gelas over at Anandtech poses the “million dollar question” of upgrading memory and CPU versus replacing the entire system. So far, there is a 2:1 margin in favor of “throwing out the baby with the bath water” and replacing the entire server even when new CPUs are available. This curious “new car syndrome” that seems to have affected IT decision makers in the past will have to change in the “new” economy. Is Intel’s marketing strategy sound?

Some in the AMD fan-boy camp have accused Anand of “bending” to Intel by “always” presenting new Intel products in the glowing light of an post-coital cigarette. However, Intel has consistently “outed” more technology than AMD on many more fronts: hands-down, Intel gives Anand’s group much more to talk about! However, this relentless cycle of “product renovation” from Intel is an interesting formula of update and obsolescence that – like the “latest model” vehicle update – drags the user to a buying decision much earlier than the life-cycle warrants.

SOLORI is big on stable image platforms – Intel has SIPP for desktops and AMD’s cover desktop and server – and expanding an equipment line’s useful lifetime from 18 to 36 months with simple memory and processor upgrades seems an obvious choice. Perhaps the Intel-focus at AnandTech creates a reader bias towards disposable platforms than it would with more AMD followers. AMD Opteron users are likely more familiar with processor swaps than Intel users, given that a single-core AMD platform purchased in 2006 can be upgraded to 6-core Istanbul later this year with only another BIOS update – adding another 12-months to its life: that’s a 48-month product lifetime in tech! Read the rest of this entry ?