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!

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurr Read more…

By Doug Black

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia CEO Predicts AI ‘Cambrian Explosion’

May 25, 2017

The processing power and cloud access to developer tools used to train machine-learning models are making artificial intelligence ubiquitous across computing pl Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Exploring the Three Models of Remote Visualization

The explosion of data and advancement of digital technologies are dramatically changing the way many companies do business. With the help of high performance computing (HPC) solutions and data analytics platforms, manufacturers are developing products faster, healthcare providers are improving patient care, and energy companies are improving planning, exploration, and production. Read more…

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hedge Funds (with Supercomputing help) Rank First Among Investors

May 22, 2017

In case you didn’t know, The Quants Run Wall Street Now, or so says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. Quant-run hedge funds now control the largest Read more…

By John Russell

IBM, D-Wave Report Quantum Computing Advances

May 18, 2017

IBM said this week it has built and tested a pair of quantum computing processors, including a prototype of a commercial version. That progress follows an an Read more…

By George Leopold

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Offers Supercomputing as a Service, Targets Biotechs First

May 16, 2017

Leading supercomputer vendor Cray and datacenter/cloud provider the Markley Group today announced plans to jointly deliver supercomputing as a service. The init Read more…

By John Russell

HPE’s Memory-centric The Machine Coming into View, Opens ARMs to 3rd-party Developers

May 16, 2017

Announced three years ago, HPE’s The Machine is said to be the largest R&D program in the venerable company’s history, one that could be progressing tow Read more…

By Doug Black

What’s Up with Hyperion as It Transitions From IDC?

May 15, 2017

If you’re wondering what’s happening with Hyperion Research – formerly the IDC HPC group – apparently you are not alone, says Steve Conway, now senior V Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Launches Servers, Services, and Collaboration at GTC

May 10, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today launched a new liquid cooled GPU-driven Apollo platform based on SGI ICE architecture, a new collaboration with NVIDIA, a Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

Since our first formal product releases of OSPRay and OpenSWR libraries in 2016, CPU-based Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) has achieved wide-spread adopt Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Last week, Google reported that its custom ASIC Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) was 15-30x faster for inferencing workloads than Nvidia's K80 GPU (see our coverage Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 ne Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is 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 w Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 Read more…

By Steve Campbell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Eng Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

As China continues to prove its supercomputing mettle via the Top500 list and the forward march of its ambitious plans to stand up an exascale machine by 2020, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu's Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural networ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of "quantum supremacy," researchers are stretching the limits of today's most advance Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" process Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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