AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

By John Russell

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in what has become an overwhelmingly two-socket landscape in the data center. Today, AMD and Baidu announced that China’s giant internet provider would offer AI, big data, and cloud computing services on EPYC-based single socket solutions.

This deal follows last week’s announcement that Microsoft Azure would offer EPYC-based instances (see HPCwire article, Azure Debuts AMD EPYC Instances for Storage Optimized Workloads). The EPYC line’s high memory bandwidth and IO capacity makes it well suited for many areas but especially for storage servers. AMD is working to ensure EPYC doesn’t become stereotyped by this perception.

“You have probably seen in the industry a fair number of single socket platforms from us but they have tended to be more on the storage optimized or GPU optimized,” said Scott Aylor, AMD corporate vice president and general manager of Enterprise Solutions. For example, HPE introduced a storage optimized server, CL3150, using a single socket EPYC design. “Given the variety of services that Baidu deploys, including storage but also others, I want people to know this is really a compute oriented platform,” said Aylor.

It’s clear AMD is targeting price-performance points that it hopes Intel will find difficult to match and that will help AMD reclaim chunks of the x86 data center market after a lengthy absence. The single socket gambit is an important part of the strategy as was made clear by Aylor at the June launch.

“We can build a no compromise one-socket offering that will allow us to cover up to 50 percent of the two-socket market that is today held by the [Intel Broadwell] E5-2650 and below.

“In our one socket offering we have come up with a clever way to maintain all of the I/O capabilities that you would get in a two socket as well as the full complement of eight memory channels. Today people buy two socket, sometimes because they need to, but more often than not because they have to. There are many examples in which I/O rich [workloads] like storage, like GPU compute, and some vertical workloads where people don’t necessarily need two sockets from a CPU performance perspective,” said Aylor.

AMD contends the EPYC processor will deliver 2.6X the I/O density than competitive[i] solutions and enable Baidu to achieve a level of scale and efficiency unrivaled in high-performance x86. “The combination of performance from the EPYC processor cores, and compute and I/O density packaged in a single-socket configuration, provides the ideal platform for Baidu’s next generation cloud services,” according to AMD.

“By offering outstanding performance in single-processor systems, the AMD EPYC platform provides flexibility and high-performance in our datacenter, which allows Baidu to deliver more efficient services to our customers,” said Liu Chao, senior director, Baidu System Technologies Department in the official release.

Again, from the EPYC launch in June, Aylor said, “We’ve selectively optimized a couple of skews for one socket only. So these are skews that are one socket capable only.” As an example of how the one socket and two socket offerings are distinguished, he cited on package interconnect, “The infinity fabric that would normally connect the two sockets in a two socket system, we repurpose that interconnect into more I/O lanes and that’s how you have in a two socket solution 128 lanes of PCIe and in a one socket solution you still keep the same level of connectivity.”

Today’s announcement punctuates what has been a heady year for AMD. Adoption of the single socket solution by Baidu is another demonstration of market traction and according to AMD, Baidu expects to expand its use of EPYC processors across its global datacenters beginning in the first quarter of 2018.

“This announcement with Baidu and the fact that it is AI, big data, and cloud; those are all computing oriented workloads. So think about the point we raised when we first launched [which] is we now can take what has been part of the mainstream of the market and everything that historically has been the [Intel] E5-2650 and below, and really, looking at the [Skylake] Silver and Gold today from [Intel], we can really address that now with a single socket platform,” said Aylor.

It will be interesting to watch how big a swath AMD’s single socket initiative can cut in the competitive data center market. Aylor said more and more varied single socket EPYC-based offerings are coming, but didn’t specify from who or when.

[i] Information supplied by AMD: AMD EPYCTM processor supports up to 128 PCIe Gen 3 I/O lanes (in both 1 and 2-socket configuration), versus the Intel Xeon SP Series processor supporting a maximum of 48 lanes PCIe Gen 3 per CPU, plus 20 lanes in the I/O chip (max of 68 lanes on 1 socket and 96 lanes on 2 socket). NAP-56

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