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!

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’s introduction of an ARM-based system (XC-50) last November. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

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 Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) in Los Angeles. The Read more…

By Staff

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

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

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

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

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

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