AMD Launches Intel Counter-Assault with New Opteron Chips

By Michael Feldman

March 29, 2010

AMD has officially launched its Opteron 6100 series processors, code-named “Magny-Cours.” Available in 8-core and 12-core flavors, the new 6100 parts are targeted for 2P and 4P server duty and are being pitched against Intel’s latest high-end Xeon silicon: the 6-core Westmere EP processor for 2P servers and the upcoming 8-core Nehalem EX processor for 4P-and-above servers.

With the 6100 launch, AMD’s battle with Intel for the high-end x86 server market enters a new era. In the two-socket server space, Intel’s Westmere EP retains the speed title, clock-frequency-wise. At the same time, Nehalem EX, due to be announced tomorrow, will give Intel exclusive ownership of the 8P-and-above x86 server market. Meanwhile, AMD will use Magny-Cours to try to outmaneuver Intel with better price-performance and performance-per-watt on two-socket and four-socket machines. According to John Fruehe, director of product marketing of the server and workstation division, their whole focus is about value. “We’re going to be able to deliver more cores and more memory for less money,” he says. Pricing on the new CPUs range from a low of $266 up to $1,386 at the top end.

While Intel can still deliver faster cores on its Westmere EP, thanks in part to its 32nm process technology, AMD, with its 45nm technology, has opted to go for more cores that run proportionally slower. “Their per-core performance is higher than mine,” admits Fruehe. “But their per-core price is much higher than mine and their per-core power [draw] is much higher than mine.” The fastest Westmere EP CPUs top out at 3.33 GHz for the 6-core version and 3.46 GHz for the 4-core version. In contrast, the speediest 12-core and 8-core Magny-Cours come in at 2.3 GHz and 2.4 GHz respectively.

But performance-wise, the new Opterons still make a good showing against their higher-clocked and more expensive Xeon rivals. Matched against a 3.3 GHz 6-core Westmere EP (Xeon X5680), AMD says its 2.2 GHz 12-core Magny-Cours (Opteron 6174) essentially breaks even on the SPECint_rate2006 metric for integer performance and is about 20 percent faster as measured by SPECfp_rate2006 for floating point. That comparison seems especially favorable for AMD, considering the top-bin X5680 runs about $500 more than AMD’s middle-of-the-road 6174. Better yet, the Xeon part is rated at 130 watts TDP, while the Opteron comes in at 80 watts ACP — although these power ratings are not directly comparable.

AnandTech ran its own tests that pitted a 12-core Magny-Cours against a 6-core Westmere EP. For HPC workloads in particular, the Opteron performed very well, besting its Xeon competition in an LS-DYNA crash simulation code and a Fluent fluid dynamics test. The benchmarkers attributed the better HPC performance in these cases to the additional memory channel — 4 for the Magny-Cours versus 3 for the Westmere EP — and the additional cores.

In the 4P arena, the performance matchup with Nehalem EX is less certain. Here Intel brings the core count up to 8 and matches Magny-Cours with 4 memory channels per socket. Nehalem EX will also support up to 16 DIMMs per socket versus 12 for Magny-Cours. Cache-wise, Intel’s 8-core chip sports a full 24 MB of L3 cache, against 12 MB for AMD’s top offering. But Fruehe says Nehalem EX only supports up to 1066 MHz memory when the DIMMs are packed, while the Opterons can support all 12 DIMMs with 1333 MHz RAM. In addition, the EX has an extra buffer on each channel, which adds latency to the memory access.

Nevertheless, AMD intends to push the 6100 heavily for 4P platforms. According to Fruehe, the 6100 design eliminates the so-called “4P tax” that has made 2-socket machines the sweet spot in the server market for years. “If you think about your typical HPC cluster today, everybody buys 2P boxes because they’re cheap and easy to cluster together,” explains Fruehe. “You could get greater performance for a lot of workloads by jumping to a 4P — as long as you’re not saturating your interconnect — and end up saving a lot of money.”

Since Magny-Cours and the G34 chipset support both 2P and 4P designs, the processor and memory cost increase only linearly as you double up the CPUs. The savings come in because your motherboard, chassis, and power supply costs go down relative to two 2P boxes. And since you’re cutting the number of server nodes in half, you also save on interconnect adapters and switches, which is a significant chunk of the overall cost of a system. Also, with half as many nodes, your cluster is easier to manage, and in some cases, will require less costly software licensing.

The $266 to $1,386 price spread for Magny-Cours will look especially attractive for large-scale 4P setups compared to the more expensive Nehalem EX. (As of Monday, prices on the EX series have not been announced, but are expected to range between $800 to $3,600.) For HPC deployments in particular, where hundreds or thousands of nodes are involved, the up-front cost savings are likely to be significant.

On the other hand, AMD has decided not to play at all in the 8P server market. In doing so, the company will cede the x86 portion of this market entirely to Intel and Nehalem EX. The rationale is that the market volume is too small for AMD. Fruehe estimates that today the 8P space accounts for only 1600 to 1800 servers per quarter worldwide (less than 60,000 CPUs per year), and believes those numbers are shrinking. AMD has calculated that the price premium and system complexity associated with an 8P system won’t be worth it for the vast majority of customers. And as core counts plus memory capacity grow, many of these 8P SMP applications may be able to transition down to 4-socket servers. “Ultimately, the value we’ll be able to deliver in a 48-core 4P and the type of price points we can hit will make it increasingly difficult for people to justify spending the money on a Nehalem EX platform,” says Fruehe.

So far, most of the major system manufacturers have signed up for the Opteron upgrade, including HP, Dell, Cray, SGI, Appro, Penguin Computing, Supermicro, Colfax, Atipa and others. Interestingly, IBM is missing from this list, but they may be waiting for a more opportune moment to jump on the 6100 bandwagon. A new OEM partner for Opteron is Acer, which will be introducing 6100-based servers, including HPC boxes, in Europe and Asia, and later this year in North America.

If the server makers come through, AMD’s strategic focus on 2P and 4P servers may pay off. In the highly price-performance sensitive HPC market, the 6100 products could help the company recapture some of the market share it has lost over the last couple of years. And despite the momentum Intel has built for its Xeon products, customer loyalty for CPUs is only as enduring as the next procurement cycle.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Challenges Face Astroinformatics as It Sorts Through the Stars

June 15, 2018

You might have seen one of those YouTube videos: they begin on Earth, slowly zooming out to the Moon, the Solar System, the Milky Way, beyond – and suddenly, you’re looking at trillions of stars. It’s a lot to take Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Banks Boost Infrastructure to Tackle GDPR

As banks become more digital and data-driven, their IT managers are challenged with fast growing data volumes and lines-of-businesses’ (LoBs’) seemingly limitless appetite for analytics. Read more…

SDSC Researchers Use Machine Learning to More Accurately Model Water

June 13, 2018

Water – H2O – is a simple but fascinating (and useful) compound. San Diego Supercomputing Center researchers used machine learning techniques to develop models for simulations of water with “unprecedented accuracy. Read more…

By Staff

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Xiaoxiang Zhu Receives the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC

June 13, 2018

Xiaoxiang Zhu, who works for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Technical University of Munich (TUM), was awarded the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her outstanding contributions in the field of high performance computing (HPC) in Europe. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

U.S Considering Launch of National Quantum Initiative

June 11, 2018

Sometime this month the U.S. House Science Committee will introduce legislation to launch a 10-year National Quantum Initiative, according to a recent report by Read more…

By John Russell

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Exascale USA – Continuing to Move Forward

June 6, 2018

The end of May 2018, saw several important events that continue to advance the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) for the United Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Exascale for the Rest of Us: Exaflops Systems Capable for Industry

June 6, 2018

Enterprise advanced scale computing – or HPC in the enterprise – is an entity unto itself, situated between (and with characteristics of) conventional enter Read more…

By Doug Black

Fracas in Frankfurt: ISC18 Cluster Competition Teams Unveiled

June 6, 2018

The Student Cluster Competition season heats up with the seventh edition of the ISC Student Cluster Competition, slated to begin on June 25th in Frankfurt, Germ Read more…

By Dan Olds

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Sympo Read more…

By Staff

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Charts Two-Dimensional Quantum Course

April 26, 2018

Quantum error correction, essential for achieving universal fault-tolerant quantum computation, is one of the main challenges of the quantum computing field and it’s top of mind for Google’s John Martinis. At a presentation last week at the HPC User Forum in Tucson, Martinis, one of the world's foremost experts in quantum computing, emphasized... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This