It's been five months since either of the processor giants released a new server processor. Today, both Intel and AMD have new offerings. Intel has updated their 3.6 GHz Xeon to include an additional 1MB of L2 cache, and AMD has bumped their quickest Opteron up 200Mhz to 2.6GHz with the Opteron 252. Neither one of these upgrades is groundbreaking, but they do offer some performance increases, especially the 2MB Xeon. We'll see some more significant releases later this year from both manufacturers with their Dual Core offerings.

Intel's Update

Instead of a clock increase, Intel decided to throw some cache at the existing 3.6 Xeon units. In one of our previous articles, we took a look at a 4MB Gallatin Xeon and compared it to an Opteron. The results showed that the 4MB cache on the Gallatin didn't boast any large increases over that of the Opteron with 1MB of L2 cache. The main reason for that was the 400Mhz bus, which starved the Gallatin of precious bandwidth. Times have changed; Intel recognized the bandwidth issue and today, an extra 1MB of L2 cache on the 800Mhz bus that the Nocona and Irwindale Xeons offer does make a difference. Of course, the difference depends entirely on the workload, which we'll explain further as we reveal our results.

AMD's Update

The Opteron 252 is mostly a clock speed increase from 2.4GHz to 2.6GHz, but there are a few of other differences that are worth mentioning. The packaging has changed on the new 252 from ceramic to organic - you can see the difference from a 250 to the 252 below. Aside from the packaging, AMD has also thrown in SSE3 instructions, increased the HyperTransport to 1GHz, and the 252 is manufactured on 90nm. As for the Dual Core roadmap for AMD, it remains on schedule for mid-2005. Dual core Opterons will be socket compatible with existing 940 pin sockets that support 90nm (95W/80A).

Click images to enlarge.

64bit SQL Server Tests?

In our recent SQL articles, we've been asked, "where are the 64 bit tests?" Who cares about 32 bit based tests? First, we're right on top of 64 bit testing for SQL Server - remember that this application is still in beta. Regarding the second question, the large majority of SQL Server database servers are running on 32 bit platforms, so a lot of people do care. That being said, 64 bit SQL Server is definitely sought after, and we are going to provide coverage as soon as we can.

Test hardware configuration


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  • Zan Lynx - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    I see Viditor explained what he really wanted. That was my first comment and by the time I'd filled out all the forms and received the email with my password he had already explained. Sorry. Please ignore me. Reply
  • Zan Lynx - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    Viditor, the test hardware used 8GB RAM for both the Xeon and Opteron systems according to page 2. Reply
  • Viditor - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    Jason - Let me expand on my request...

    Because there is still no hardware IOMMU on Xeon chipsets, I believe they must use PAE for 64bit addressing over 4GB, however Opteron doesn't have this problem and can address directly up to 128GB.
    I would very much like to see the results of a comparison on the same testbed you used for this article (8GB Ram) to compare and see how much this effects performance as this seems a very typical model to me.

  • Viditor - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    Jason - Very well done test and article!

    I too would be very interested in a 64bit Linux (or even Windows Beta) test with that configuration...
    One of the things I am anxious to see is Xeons reaction to >4GB of ram on its performance. There are still NO results (that I have seen) with that configuration.

    Cheers, and thanks for the article.
  • sri2000 - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    Someone mentioned adding other database functions to provide different kind of stresses. How about using SQL Server Data Transfromation Services (DTS) to perform a variety of mass imports/exports from the test database?

    You could also perform some Full-Text searches mixed in with the regular queries on appropriately indexed tables - though those are really disk intensive rather than CPU-intensive (though the CPU usage does spike significantly when these queries are run).

    I also wonder if adding queries which hit Views in addition to regular tables would affect anything, the result being that you're essentially running nested queries (though this doesn't likely reflect the type of usage seen in your forums, which was the basis of this test).

    By the same token, having queries that use wildcards, user functions, sub-queries, etc (rather than just simple selects & inserts) will also add complexity to the searches & might affect the results.

  • Marlin1975 - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    Like someone else pointed out, when will you do some test to see what the SSE3 did for AMD.

    Also what were the temps on both of the NEW Cpus. Haveing hundreds of them in a server room can cost a arm and a leg to keep cool, so I think temps do matter here.
  • fitten - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    #39, we don't need to point out that 64-bit Intel P4 Xeons have been out and available for a while even though WindowsXP64 isn't available yet. You can run the RC WindowsXP64 on those and on Opterons/Athlon64s. Reply
  • rgb - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    I don't think the BIOS of the test machine was adapted to Revision E Opterons.

    I adapted LinuxBIOS to the Rev E stepping last week and the 1 GHz support is really the easiest thing (was already present in revision D processors). Changing the HT speed while the operating system is running is _very_ difficult. It requires a reset or LDTSTOP on both CPUs for the new frequency to be effective, so this is normally done a boot time in the BIOS. I guess ntune does not really change the HT frequency.

    In addition Revision E has a number of errata fixed which result in improved performance (for example Errata 94).

    The most important point is the new memory controller mode that reduces the DRAM bank conflicts. It improves STREAM benchmarks scores around 30%. This modes has to be automatically enabled by the BIOS, so please rerun the benchmark on a mainboard that supports Rev E processors.

  • Quanticles - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    I'd really want to see tests run on Linux, even if it is 32-bit. There are too many Windows programs that are tailored to Intel processors.

    I dont need to point out that Microsoft is delaying the 64 bit version of Windows until Intel has their 64 bit processor come out. If they're going to delay like that then I wonder how well the Opteron will preform on it.
  • Phiro - Monday, February 14, 2005 - link

    Jason: Ignore all the 64-bit idiots. Please keep supplying 32-bit sql benchmarks for a LONG time - in the real world 99.5% of production dbs are running on 32-bit sql servers and that number will remain quite high for a long, long time no matter how fast 64-bit takes off. Reply

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