Posts Tagged ‘opteron’

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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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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.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Server Watch: Istanbul, G34, C32, Itanium and Nehalem-EX

May 29, 2009
Istanbul is launching in June, 2009 and will be a precursor to the G34 and C32 platforms to come in Q1/2010. To that end, AMD will be providing an overview of its next generation of Direct Connect Architecture, or DCA 2.0, which which separates Socket-F systems from G34/C32. This overview will be available as a live webcast on June 1, 2009 at 11:00AM Central Time. In advance of the announcement, AMD has (silently) reduced prices for its Opteron processors across the board. This move will place additional pressure on Intel’s Nehalem-EP systems already weakened (virtualization) price-performance.

We expect to hear more news about Istanbul’s availability in keeping with Tyan’s upcoming announcement next week. Based on current technology and economic trends, Istanbul and G34 could offer AMD a solid one-two punch to counter Intel’s relentless “tick-tock” pace. With Nehalem servers sales weak despite early expectations and compounding economic pressures, market timing may be more ideally suited for AMD’s products than Intel’s for a change. As Gartner puts it, “the timing of Nehalem is a bit off, and it probably won’t make much of an impact this year.”

In the meantime, Phil Hughes at AMD has a posted a personal reflection on Opteron’s initial launch, starting with the IBM e325 in 2003, and ending with Opteron’s impact on the Intel Itanium market by year-end (while resisting a reference to “the sinking of the Itanic“). Phil acknowledges Sun’s influence on Opteron and links to some news articles from 2003. See his full post, “The Sun Also Rises,” here… As 64-bit processors go, 2003 was much more the year of the Opteron rather than “the year of the Itanium” (as predicted by Intel’s Paul Otellini.)

Speaking of Itanium, TechWorld has an article outlining how Intel’s upcoming Nehalem-EX – with the addition of MCA technology derived from Itanium – could bring an end to the beleagered proprietary platform. TechWorld cites Insight 64 analyst Nathan Brookwood as saying the new Xeon will finally break Intel’s policy of artificially crippling of the x86 processor which has prevented Xeon from being competitive with Itanium. The 8-core, SMT-enabled EX processor was being demonstrated by IBM in an 8-socket configuration.
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Quick Take: AMD Istanbul Update

May 21, 2009

AMD was gracious enough to invite us to their Reviewer’s Day on May 20th to have a final look at “Istanbul” and discuss their plans for the product’s upcoming release. While much of the information we received is embargoed until the June, 2009 release date, we can tell you that we’ve have received a couple of AMD’s new 6-core “Istanbul” Opterons for testing and review. We’ll look forward to seeing “Istanbul” in action inside our lab over the next couple of weeks. Our verdict will be available at launch.

Instead of typical benchmarks, we’ll be focusing on Istanbul’s implications for vSphere before the new Opteron hits the streets (remember 6-core is the limit for “free” and “reduced capability” vSphere license). If what we saw from AMD’s internal testing at Reviewer’s Day is accurate , then our AMD/VMware Eco-System partners are going to be very happy with the results. What we can confirm today is that AGESA 3.3.0.3+ 3.5.0.0+ is required to run Istanbul, so start looking for BIOS updates from your vendors as the launch date approaches. The systems we reported on from Tyan back in April will be good-to-go at launch (our GT28 test systems are already running it require a beta BIOS).

SOLORI’s take: We made a somewhat bold prediction on April 30, 2009 that “Shanghai-Istanbul Eco-System looks like an economic stimulus all its own” when comparing the AMD upgrade path to Intel’s (rip and replace) where VMware infrastructures are concerned. That article, Shanghai Economics 101, was one of our most popular AMD-related postings yet, and – judging from what we’ve seen already – it looks like we may have been correct!

While we’re impressed with the ability to flawlessly vMotion from socket 940 to socket-F, we were more impressed with the ability to insert an Istanbul into a Barcelona or Shanghai system and immediately realize the benefits. We’re going to look at our review samples, revisit our price-performance data and Watt/VM calculations before making sweeping recommendation. However, we expect to find Istanbul to be a very good match to on-premise cloud/virtualization initiatives.

SOLORI’s 2nd take: VDI and databased consolidation systems running on 4P AMD boxes are about to take a giant leap forward. We can’t wait to see 24-core and 48-core VMmark scores updated over the next two months. Start asking your system vendor for updated BIOS supporting AGESA 3.5.0.0+ (Tyan are you listening? Supermicro’s AS2041M is already there), and get your 4P test mule updated and prepare to be amazed…

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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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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: Live Migration with Istanbul

April 1, 2009

As a follow-up to the six-core demonstration referenced in an earlier post, AMD has issued a press release and a related video demonstrating a “three generation” migration in VMware VI3. The key issues for AMD are that a running workload on a “Barcelona” Opteron can migrate to/from a “Shanghai” or “Istanbul” series processor without shutdown (courtesy of VMware’s VMotion).

Another excellent take-away is that – unlike the test mule system used in the previous demonstrations – the system used in the migration demonstration appears to be a Supermicro AS-2021M. Pictured below, this platform demonstration would seem to indicate that Istanbul is close to release.

Ron Myers of AMD migrating from one server to another using VMware ESX 3.5

Ron Myers of AMD migrating from one server to another using VMware ESX 3.5

SOLORI’s take: Previous tests had either involved AMD test mules or HP modular systems. The use of SOLORI Eco-System products in such a demonstration underscores the value of AMD as an Eco-System partner and the longevity of these systems in production.

SOLORI’s 2nd take: With the emergence of Intel’s Nehalem-EP processor and its outstanding pre-release benchmark testing, AMD has a very short window of opportunity to release the Istanbul series to hold its ground. Given some early indications that probe filter boosts memory bandwidth – an issue Nehalem currently leads in – AMD should launch Istanbul with as many optimizing feature as they can, including probe filter.