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!

ExxonMobil, NCSA, Cray Scale Reservoir Simulation to 700,000+ Processors

February 17, 2017

In a scaling breakthrough for oil and gas discovery, ExxonMobil geoscientists report they have harnessed the power of 717,000 processors – the equivalent of 22,000 32-processor computers – to run complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models. Read more…

By Doug Black

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Object Storage is the Ideal Storage Method for CME Companies

The communications, media, and entertainment (CME) sector is experiencing a massive paradigm shift driven by rising data volumes and the demand for high-performance data analytics. Read more…

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 16, 2017)

February 16, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Alexander Named Dep. Dir. of Brookhaven Computational Initiative

February 15, 2017

Francis Alexander, a physicist with extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research, has been named Deputy Director of the Computational Science Initiative at the U.S. Read more…

Here’s What a Neural Net Looks Like On the Inside

February 15, 2017

Ever wonder what the inside of a machine learning model looks like? Today Graphcore released fascinating images that show how the computational graph concept maps to a new graph processor and graph programming framework it’s creating. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Cray Posts Best-Ever Quarter, Visibility Still Limited

February 10, 2017

On its Wednesday earnings call, Cray announced the largest revenue quarter in the company’s history and the second-highest revenue year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Cloud Startup Launches ‘App Store’ for HPC Workflows

February 9, 2017

“Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

KNUPATH Hermosa-based Commercial Boards Expected in Q1 2017

December 15, 2016

Last June tech start-up KnuEdge emerged from stealth mode to begin spreading the word about its new processor and fabric technology that’s been roughly a decade in the making. Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This