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Servers are where thread-friendly new architecture shines the brightest

Today, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMDannounced the Opteron 6300 Series, code-named Abu Dhabi.  Equipped with a Piledriver core, the new chips serve as an enhanced replacement to the Bulldozer-equipped Opteron 6200 Series (which was code-named Interlagos).

As we mentioned in our piece on the consumer Piledriver launch, the new core is impressive, featuring a number of performance enhancements.  However, consumer workloads tend to be lightly threaded, so the consumer workloads tend to fall short on the price-v-performance scale.

In the server market it's a very different tail.  Workloads here tend to be heavily threaded in many cases, such as virtualized infrastructures, web hosting, mobile device data serving, etc.

AMD's numbers may be a bit biased, but it's claiming to essentially match rival Intel Corp.'s (INTC) performance in HPC (high-performance computing) applications, such as chemical simulations, with a chip that's only half the cost.

AMD performance Opterons

Intel will likely respond with some aggressive price cuts to stay competitive, but for now it's faced with the puzzle of how to compete with a foe that offers twice as many cores at half the cost.

AMD Opteron 6300 Series pricing
Pricing (click to enlarge)

Unlike the consumer market, Intel and AMD are largely competing on the same node -- 32 nm -- for server chips.  This is because Intel has yet to announce E5 series chips based on Ivy Bridge, having only announced E3 series dual- and quad-core offerings.

We spoke with Michael Detwiler, AMD’s Server Product Marketing Manager, who says that AMD's focus it to be "real targeted, instead of trying to be everything to everybody."

He argues that AMD's new Opterons provide "more computations per dollar" than Intel's mixed 32 nm and 22 nm Xeon line.

Piledriver bakes in a number of enhancements (click to enlarge)

The chips feature a number of subtle improvements, including better branch prediction, new instruction set support, and a more efficient cache.  In other words, everything is looking good, although third-party benchmarks weren't available at launch.

Source: AMD

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The Opteron 6300's should sell well
By Beenthere on 11/5/2012 5:05:39 PM , Rating: 4
AMD's pricing makes the Opteron 6300's (as well as Vishera chippies) a very wise decision that consumers have already responded to with the FX models. It only took Newegg four days to sell out of FX-8350 CPUs and they had a good quantity of them.

Contrary to Jason's comment that AMD's CPUs don't deliver on cost vs. performance, which is total B.S., as Trinity laptop, Trinity desktop and Vishers FX CPUs actually deliver better performance for the same price as Intel's CPUs.

It's time Jason run some real applications instead of tainted benches, so he can get a grasp on reality. Virtually every reputable PC hardware site has noted that Vishera was definitely the better choice on performance vs. price compared to Intel CPUs.

By chµck on 11/5/2012 5:18:21 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that AMD CPUs are still good for the money, but all intel has to do is lower their prices, which no doubt they are able to do.

RE: The Opteron 6300's should sell well
By Reclaimer77 on 11/5/12, Rating: -1
RE: The Opteron 6300's should sell well
By xti on 11/5/2012 5:26:44 PM , Rating: 2

a company = money always matters
an individual = dont amount up enough % of the big pot to matter

RE: The Opteron 6300's should sell well
By Strunf on 11/6/2012 7:39:03 AM , Rating: 2
"a company = money always matters"
True but AMD CPU also use more power and the more power a CPU "wastes" the more you will spend in cooling, maintenance and what not, on the long run Intel may even be cheaper!

By Argon18 on 11/30/2012 12:55:43 PM , Rating: 2
That makes for discussion fodder for internet forum geeks, but quite frankly most businesses don't give two craps about power consumption and cooling.

Where do you get "maintenance" from? You are really asserting that AMD cpu's require more "maintenance" than intel? Do you understand how computers work?

RE: The Opteron 6300's should sell well
By ShaolinSoccer on 11/5/12, Rating: 0
By someguy123 on 11/5/2012 10:48:39 PM , Rating: 2
He posts the same crap in every article about CPUs. Ironically trinity/piledriver tend to do much better in synthetics thanks to their ability to saturate all cores constantly. Overall, though, trinity is only dominant in laptops, and piledriver in certain scenarios like cryptography and compiling.

By tecknurd on 11/6/2012 3:52:14 PM , Rating: 2
The price vs performance for FX-8350 is controversial. It does well when applications are multi-threaded. Then it does not do well when applications are single threaded. Also it does not show well for power consumption vs its performance. It is hard to tell if this processor has performance vs price compared to Intel. Intel has excellent performance vs price across the board while FX-8350 hits the target sparingly and is scatter-brain for other programs.

The latest Opteron may seem cheaper than Xeon, but only if data centers are still using Opteron systems. If not, switching will be costly, so that $1000 difference will even out to be as costly as Xeon systems. Then there is evil power consumption that data centers have to figure in if going with Opteron is a better buy.

BTW, I see you camping over at dailytech instead of...xbitlabs...or...anandtech.

Not that hard
By Guspaz on 11/5/2012 5:30:41 PM , Rating: 3
Intel will likely respond with some aggressive price cuts to stay competitive, but for now it's faced with the puzzle of how to compete with a foe that offers twice as many cores at half the cost.

The solution to the puzzle is simple: half as many cores, twice the performance per core. The overall chip offers similar performance, and in single-threaded tasks you can get double the performance per task. In multi-threaded environments like VM, hyperthreading helps keep multithreaded performance on a similar level.

Basically, all Intel has to do is reduce their price to match and they're golden.

RE: Not that hard
By aicom on 11/5/2012 5:45:27 PM , Rating: 2
You're exactly right. The thing is that this higher performing core that Intel needs has already been designed. Haswell finally sees the jump from 3 ALU pipelines (since the Core 2 days) to 4. But lo and behold, 4 ALU pipelines is just the number that AMD has per module (2 per core). For those tasks with more ILP to extract, Haswell will be a monster. With HT, programs can take advantage of that new pipeline even with lower ILP. That's not even counting the performance difference that TSX makes in high core-count systems.

RE: Not that hard
By kingmotley on 11/5/2012 5:49:40 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. It's not rocket science. If you are looking for better performance per dollar, there are better offerings from Intel than the 2690. If you are looking for better performance in a single socket, there are better offerings from Intel.

Twice the cores and similar performance is somehow a bragging right for AMD? It performs about the same in perfect multithreaded applications, and half the performance in single threaded or lopsided balanced applications. Price, sure, but still a very lackluster design without much of a future from AMD.

RE: Not that hard
By Guspaz on 11/5/2012 6:55:09 PM , Rating: 1
There are certainly tasks that need high single-threaded performance, too. Even in every-day applications.

Take the recently released game Natural-Selection 2. It's an indy title, so the game isn't the most optimized, which isn't helped by the fact the game (from a compute perspective) is monstrously complex; it drives entity counts that would make other games run away in fear.

The game's dedicated server is only mildly multithreaded; the core work is done in a single thread. Current high-end Xeon processors can't do much more than 16-18 players on a server. As a result, server hosts have resorted to taking consumer processors and overclocking them (4.4 GHz is a favourite target) to get better single-threaded performance, enabling 20-24 player servers.

This is an every-day kind of problem, albeit on a small scale of ~140k players needing game servers to play on.

In this sort of scenario, where single threaded performance is king, and a high-end Xeon can just barely keep up, what use is an Opteron that offers half the single-threaded performance?

You will never see Natural-Selection 2 dedicated servers running on AMD hardware unless either AMD or the game developers make massive improvements.

RE: Not that hard
By someguy123 on 11/5/2012 6:00:34 PM , Rating: 2
True. These are also AMD's slides and not independent testing, which tend to exaggerate real world figures. I don't expect real world numbers to be too significantly worse, but it is telling that they haven't shipped chips out for testing when they normally send chips out for opteron launches.

Still its going to be hard to match them in value considering each opteron module shares assets. It'll probably come down to the peak power consumption.

RE: Not that hard
By retrospooty on 11/5/2012 8:14:49 PM , Rating: 3
I bet the real numbers are significantly worse. AMD has a long history of over hyping performance claims, then back stepping upon release.

Misuse of the word "tail"
By Brandenburgh_Man on 11/6/2012 5:18:32 AM , Rating: 3
You used the word "tail" when you meant "tale".

A monkey has a tail.

A story is a tale.

RE: Misuse of the word "tail"
By Argon18 on 11/30/2012 12:59:16 PM , Rating: 2
There's plenty of apes in this discussion...

Marketing Fluff
By Ammohunt on 11/6/2012 2:14:51 PM , Rating: 2
This is mostly marketing fluff and means little for the consumer market. On another not after i decided to retired my AMD based server hardware and use it as my main machine. I replaced an intel E8500 with a FX-6100 6 core and couldn't be happier. What convinced me was the valid argument made here and elsewhere that even mid range cpus run 99% of the games on the market with a good GPU. The 6 cores are nice to have because i have a need to run VM's for work. I have always preferred intel but right now the premium the want for their CPU's just isn't worth it IMHO.

RE: Marketing Fluff
By Argon18 on 11/30/2012 1:06:55 PM , Rating: 2
Precisely. It isn't about performance. And it isn't about price. It's about the ratio of the two: price/performance

Yes intel has some offerings now that in terms of absolute computing speed are ahead of AMD. But they cost a small fortune. Especially in the server market. Opteron absolutely crushes Xeon in the price/performance department. And to businesses and individuals alike, that translates into better value . In today's computing world where even a half-decade old CPU is more than enough for most casual tasks, it simply doesn't make sense to pay the intel premium to get the absolute fastest thing.

By Mindbreaker on 11/6/2012 12:13:03 PM , Rating: 2
I think they need to rethink the pricing a little bit. 6386 SE, fine, probably a bargain. 6380, and 6328 appropriate. The rest are not priced to move. Don't see the point of the 6308 at all; who wants 4-cores in a server CPU especially when 4 are equivalent to 2 cores. Maybe $100 for that one.

I think the major problem they have had is that people want the 16-core and at a reasonable speed at a somewhat unreasonably small price. I say: do it. 6328 @ $399 that would sell chips. Or maybe a 125W 16-core at the same speed. I am sure they could make enough of them.

Under volting while water cooling seems attractive too. Provided that is an option.

No real benchmarks? What's with that? No one is going to buy without some real numbers. The speed bump does make them look much more attractive. No benchmarks also means people will be hesitant because that essentially tests a board at the same time. We need to know that there is at least one reasonable board out there.

By DailyKenny on 11/6/2012 1:54:05 PM , Rating: 2
Amd chips have always been great for multi threaded. If you care more about multi threads than gaming then Amd is great for the server world and consumer. But they've lost the crown to the very high performance pc. For gaming intel is the best and most enthusiasts and consumers.
But if your in the rendering and content creation Amd offers a very serious second look. I'm totally happy with my amd quad because I don't do much gaming but for rendering and converting movies and everything else, there's been no problem. Especially as things go with virtual machines, Amd is very formidable. It doesn't make sense to compare it as a gaming home pc when your talking about a server article, the requirements and needs are very different. Amd is still just barely hanging on they definitely need to get their act together and produce a better consumer gaming cpu. Their dual cores sell almost as much as their hex cores since they're so good for gaming.

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