Intel, AMD Gear Up for 2011 Server Chip Battle

By Michael Feldman

September 16, 2010

Although 2010 still has a few months left to go, the competition in the x86 server processor arena for 2011 is already setting up to be a knock-down, drag-out fight. Both AMD and Intel are introducing new high-end server chips with revamped microarchitectures next year, and, at the same time, upping the core counts over their previous generation products. At a time when AMD is looking to make up lost market share, Intel is hoping to expand its dominance in the x86 server market.

This week at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) extravaganza in San Francisco, Intel had the opportunity to provide some more tidbits about its next generation “Sandy Bridge” server processors, but chose to concentrate mostly on the client-side products and applications. This was a practical choice, given that the chipmaker is planning to launch two of its most interesting products later this year: the new “Tunnel Creek,” Atom E600 SoC processors for embedded apps and the first “Sandy Bridge” processors with integrated graphics for PCs.

Sandy Bridge, which represents the 32nm-based microarchitecture upgrade from Nehalem, will end up in Xeon server parts as well, but these chips are not expected to ship until well into 2011. They’ll be meeting AMD’s 32nm “Interlagos” Opteron CPUs in roughly the same timeframe.

The first Sandy Bridge chips, which Intel talked up at IDF, are destined for desktop and laptop platforms and will sport two or four cores along with an integrated graphics engine. The new design will include a new high bandwidth, low latency “ring” interconnect that enables the integrated graphics unit to share cache with the CPU cores. In general, Intel’s CPU-GPU design mimics AMD’s Fusion processor architecture, also initially targeted to the PC market.

The idea is to bring at least low-end and mid-range graphics support on-chip, eliminating the need for an external GPU on the motherboard. The integrated graphics is being aimed at a rapidly growing set of applications for client platforms, including HD video, 3D visualization, mainstream gaming, multi-tasking and online socializing and multimedia.

However, despite the growing popularity of GPU computing for technical computing, the next generation of Xeons and Opterons for servers are not going to have integrated graphics. Instead, the extra silicon real estate will be used for CPU cores. In the case of Sandy Bridge Xeons, expect to see up to 8 cores per chip, at least for the dual-socket version. AMD’s Interlagos Opteron, meanwhile, will come in 12-core and 16-core flavors.

At IDF, Intel demonstrated a next-generation 8-core Xeon processor (presumably the Sandy Bridge EP, or equivalent) in a two-socket server, referring to it as the “Romley” platform. According to Intel, this was the first public showing for this platform since it booted up last month. Intel went on to say that those chips were on schedule for production in the second half of 2011.

The particular application being demonstrated on Romley was decrypting and encrypting three video conference streams simultaneously. Since they had HyperThreading enabled, the app had 32 threads to play with, which Intel chief Paul Otellini remarked was “pretty amazing” for a two-socket server.

Keep in mind that AMD’s upcoming Interlagos chip will also support 32 threads in a two-socket box, but won’t need anything like HyperThreading to pull it off. Interlagos is based on AMD’s new Bulldozer core architecture, which doubles up on integer units inside a module. Interlagos has 8 Bulldozer modules, thus 16 cores per chip and 32 per 2P server.

AMD’s John Fruehe noted that even though the company was moving up to Bulldozer, the Interlagos processors have the same thermal envelope and snap into the same socket (G34) as the previous generation Magny-Cours chip, providing an easy upgrade path for Opteron customers. (Sandy Bridge Xeons will almost certainly require a socket change.) AMD will be sampling Interlagos with their partners before the end of this year and launching it in 2011.

Not surprisingly, Fruehe believes his company has the edge in next year’s CPU server battle, mainly because the Opterons will out-core the Xeons in a head-to-head match-up. That’s true even today, where the 12-core Magny-Cours chip is dueling with the 6-core Westmere EP and 8-core Nehalem EX.

In AMD’s own testing for Linpack performance, a two-socket Magny-Cours server easily outruns a two-socket Nehalem box. And although that benchmark matches up a previous generation quad-core Nehalem with a current generation 12-core Opteron, Fruehe said Magny-Cours would outperform the newer 6-core Westmere processors as well.

In fact, for a company that seemed rather unenthusiastic about multiplying cores just a few years ago, AMD can’t seem to get enough of them now. And that seems to reflect customer demand too. According to Fruehe, customers, and especially HPC customers, are selecting systems with the 12-core version of Magny-Cours over the 8-core variant.

The company was anticipating more users would opt for higher clock speeds and a better ratio of cores to memory/cache bandwidth, so would naturally gravitate toward the 8-core version. As it turns, a fair number of mainstream business customer did just that. But in HPC and elsewhere, there is a heavy preference for additional cores over clock speed.

“That bodes well for us as we get into 2011 because core counts go up again, from the 8 and 12 we have today to 12 and 16,” said Fruehe. “It really feels like customers are dying for more cores, so that puts us in a real good position as we bring out the Bulldozer products.”

That said, the core advantage for AMD’s top-of-the-line server chips might not result in better floating point performance compared to their Intel counterparts. Both Sandy Bridge and Bulldozer are supporting expanded 256-bit floating point operations, accessible through new AVX (advanced vector extensions) instructions. The wider vector will allow for up to two times the peak FLOPS throughput. But since each two-core Bulldozer module shares a single 256-bit floating point unit (as an aggregation of two 128-bit units), the Opterons will need twice as many cores to keep up the Xeons when the application is using these extra-wide FP operations.

Since none of these processors, not even the client versions, have been released into the wild yet, no specific performance data is available. AMD is promising a 50 percent better performance on Interlagos compared to Magny-Cours. But that refers to absolute peak throughput; your application mileage will almost certainly vary. Intel has been mum on any performance numbers for Sandy Bridge, other than stating the obvious FP throughput boost for the 256-bit AVX instructions. In any case, 2011 will be here soon enough and we’ll let the benchmarkers have at it.

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!

Is Data Science the Fourth Pillar of the Scientific Method?

April 18, 2019

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revived a decade-old debate last month when he said that modern data science (AI plus HPC) has become the fourth pillar of the scientific method. While some disagree with the notion that statistic Read more…

By Alex Woodie

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing the bounds of what's possible in business and science, in w Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Google Open Sources TensorFlow Version of MorphNet DL Tool

April 18, 2019

Designing optimum deep neural networks remains a non-trivial exercise. “Given the large search space of possible architectures, designing a network from scratch for your specific application can be prohibitively expens Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

powercloud_blog.jpgFor decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Bridging HPC and Cloud Native Development with Kubernetes

The HPC community has historically developed its own specialized software stack including schedulers, filesystems, developer tools, container technologies tuned for performance and large-scale on-premises deployments. Read more…

Interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer

April 18, 2019

Today, as part of our ongoing HPCwire People to Watch focus series, we are highlighting our interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer. Michela -- the General Chair of SC19 -- is an ACM Distinguished Scientist. Read more…

By HPCwire Editorial Team

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Intel Gold U-Series SKUs Reveal Single Socket Intentions

April 18, 2019

Intel plans to jump into the single socket market with a portion of its just announced Cascade Lake microprocessor line according to one media report. This isn Read more…

By John Russell

BSC Researchers Shrink Floating Point Formats to Accelerate Deep Neural Network Training

April 15, 2019

Sometimes calculating solutions as precisely as a computer can wastes more CPU resources than is necessary. A case in point is with deep learning. In early stag Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

Intel Extends FPGA Ecosystem with 10nm Agilex

April 11, 2019

The insatiable appetite for higher throughput and lower latency – particularly where edge analytics and AI, network functions, or for a range of datacenter ac Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Doubles Down on Medical AI

April 9, 2019

Nvidia is collaborating with medical groups to push GPU-powered AI tools into clinical settings, including radiology and drug discovery. The GPU leader said Monday it will collaborate with the American College of Radiology (ACR) to provide clinicians with its Clara AI tool kit. The partnership would allow radiologists to leverage AI techniques for diagnostic imaging using their own clinical data. Read more…

By George Leopold

Digging into MLPerf Benchmark Suite to Inform AI Infrastructure Decisions

April 9, 2019

With machine learning and deep learning storming into the datacenter, the new challenge is optimizing infrastructure choices to support diverse ML and DL workfl Read more…

By John Russell

AI and Enterprise Datacenters Boost HPC Server Revenues Past Expectations – Hyperion

April 9, 2019

Building on the big year of 2017 and spurred in part by the convergence of AI and HPC, global revenue for high performance servers jumped 15.6 percent last year Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ClusterVision in Bankruptcy, Fate Uncertain

February 13, 2019

ClusterVision, European HPC specialists that have built and installed over 20 Top500-ranked systems in their nearly 17-year history, appear to be in the midst o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Reportedly in $6B Bid for Mellanox

January 30, 2019

The latest rumors and reports around an acquisition of Mellanox focus on Intel, which has reportedly offered a $6 billion bid for the high performance interconn Read more…

By Doug Black

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Looking for Light Reading? NSF-backed ‘Comic Books’ Tackle Quantum Computing

January 28, 2019

Still baffled by quantum computing? How about turning to comic books (graphic novels for the well-read among you) for some clarity and a little humor on QC. The Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep500: ETH Researchers Introduce New Deep Learning Benchmark for HPC

February 5, 2019

ETH researchers have developed a new deep learning benchmarking environment – Deep500 – they say is “the first distributed and reproducible benchmarking s Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

IBM Bets $2B Seeking 1000X AI Hardware Performance Boost

February 7, 2019

For now, AI systems are mostly machine learning-based and “narrow” – powerful as they are by today's standards, they're limited to performing a few, narro Read more…

By Doug Black

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Arm Unveils Neoverse N1 Platform with up to 128-Cores

February 20, 2019

Following on its Neoverse roadmap announcement last October, Arm today revealed its next-gen Neoverse microarchitecture with compute and throughput-optimized si Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

France to Deploy AI-Focused Supercomputer: Jean Zay

January 22, 2019

HPE announced today that it won the contract to build a supercomputer that will drive France’s AI and HPC efforts. The computer will be part of GENCI, the Fre Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

Oil and Gas Supercloud Clears Out Remaining Knights Landing Inventory: All 38,000 Wafers

March 13, 2019

The McCloud HPC service being built by Australia’s DownUnder GeoSolutions (DUG) outside Houston is set to become the largest oil and gas cloud in the world th 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