What Intel and AMD Are Offering

Before we can dive into benchmarks, it is good to see how the vendors position their CPUs. Before we do that, here's a quick spec sheet overview of the most important AMD and Intel CPUs.

Processor Speed and Cache Comparison
Model Number
of cores
Clock speed L2 Cache (KB) L3 Cache (MB) Interconnect
(one direction)
AMD Opteron 8439 SE 6 2.8 6 x 512 KB 6MB 9.6GB/s
Intel Xeon X7460 6 2.66 3 x 3MB 16MB Via FSB & chipset
AMD Opteron 8435 6 2.6 6 x 512 KB 6MB 9.6GB/s
Intel Xeon E7450 6 2.4 3 x 3MB 12MB Via FSB & chipset
AMD Opteron 8431 6 2.4 6 x 512 KB 6MB 9.6GB/s
Intel Xeon E7440 4 2.4 2 x 3MB 16MB Via FSB & chipset
AMD Opteron 8389 4 2.9 4 x 512 KB 6MB 8.8GB/s
Intel Xeon E7430 4 2.13 2 x 3MB 12MB Via FSB & chipset
Intel Xeon E7420 4 2.13 2 x 3MB 8MB Via FSB & chipset

Excluding the low power models, AMD offers three hex-core CPUs and Intel offers two. The gap between the top Xeon models and the midrange is remarkable: the 7440 only has four cores. That means that there is probably - roughly estimated - a gap of 30 to 50% performance between the 7440 and 7450. That gap does not exist in the AMD line-up: the Opteron 8389 has also four cores but clocks 21% higher than the 8431. The performance gap is therefore small. The pricing reflect our remarks:

Intel Xeon Model Speed (GHz) /
Price AMD Opteron Model Speed (GHz) /
X7460 2.66/ 130W $2729 8439 SE 2.8 / 105-125W $2649
      8435 2.6 / 75 - 115W $2649
E7450 2.4 / 90W $2301 8431 2.4 /75 - 115W $2149
E7440 2.4 / 90W $1980 8389 2.9 / 75- 115W $2149
E7430 2.13 / 90W $1391 8387 2.7 / 75 -115W $1865
E7420 2.13 / 90W $1177 8378 2.4 / 75 -115W $873
Dual Sockets
X5570 2.93 / 95W $1386      
X5550 2.66 / 95W $958 2435 2.6 / 75-115W $989

AMD feels that the E7450 is no match for the 8435. As a result, the latter comes with a pretty heavy price tag. Whether this is justified is easy to check, even if we do not test the E7450 in this review. As the E7450 is the same die as the X7460 at a slightly lower voltage and clock speed, the E7450 is about 7 to 8% slower than the X7460. The 2.4GHz 8378 is quite interesting: still clocked at a decent 2.4GHz, it is by far the cheapest quad socket processor. As the number of VMs that you can run on a server is often limited by the amount of memory and not processor power, a quad 8378 might make sense.

The question remains whether the best dual socket processors of Intel or AMD are a threat to the quad socket servers. Two X5570 will set you back less than $2800, while four Xeon E7420 start at $4700. Even a relatively entry-level X7430 2.13GHz based server (32GB, 4 CPUs) will cost in the range of $13000. That is three times as much as similar dual 2435 servers and 2.6 times as much as a dual X5550 machine. That is why we include the fastest dual socket machines in this test too.

Platforms Overview Benchmark Methods and Systems
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  • Photubias - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    This is surely to be tested, but the Fiorano platform (as this AMD Chipset is called), is yet to be released.
  • solori - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    Fiorano (SR5690/SP5100, et al) are out now for Socket-F and really require an Istanbul to show their stuff (like IOV, etc). With a minor tweak on HT bus speeds, don't expect to see much improvement in memory bandwidth for Fiorano/Socket-F pairings. Where you should see improvement is in power consumption - pairing HE/EE Istanbul parts with Fiorano/Kroner should create a better performance/watt result in virtualization.

    Collin C. MacMillan
  • bpdski - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    It is pretty amazing how fast the new 55xx chips are. Personally, I am holding out on any new server purchases and deployments until the EX systems come out next year. I am pretty excited about the performance potential of a dual or quad octal-core system. I feel for AMD, but if the EX systems scale as well as they should, they are really going to crush the Opterons.
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    2 answers to that, first off all looking at the design EX will be way more expensive creating a gap between 2 socket-4 socket platform even when only deploying 2 octa will be a very expensive baseline due to the motherboard layout. To expensive actually and a lot of focus trying to get risc/sparc marketshare.

    Second don't you think AMD knows this? The c32 G34 platform launch is much closer then people think, AMD made a clear roadmap and since 45nm all looks like going well on shape, keep in mind the cpu for the new platform is almost ready since it is based on istanbul and the new platform chipset was also released few weeks ago for the socket F platform, you will also see much more OEM activity with this platform due to one brand supplier, no longer need of the old nvidia/broadcom.

    EX was delayed-delayed-delayed if it continues like this it will be launched more or less at the same time, so keep the feeling. BTW even if the 55xx sereis would be again a bad performing server part (which it is finally not thank you intel) 75% of the market would be still buying it just for the brand name.....:)
  • cosminliteanu - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Many thanks for this article !
  • BrightCandle - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    A dual socket will easily fit in a 1U. But 1.25A is some serious extra cost within a colo.

    The 2U quad sockets on the other hand are a busting 500W+, again serious extra money in a colo.

    The Colo's want you using 0.5A per 1U, there is a major mismatch from these machines to the reality of the power you can actually get. Love the speed, not liking the cost of running them.
  • sonicdeth - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Thanks for this. Personally I can't recommend any of the quad socket systems until we see Intels Nehalem-EX early next year. The dual core 55xx series is just fantastic for the price (especially with VMware). We've deployed several HP 380G6's and couldn't be happier.
  • Bazili - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Great article. Congrats!!!

    Could you pleas include a software price analysis? I guess it can show huge differences among a 24 core box and a 8 core box.

  • tobrien - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    these are amazing articles, you guys do such an awesome job with these.

    thanks a ton!
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the kudos! much appreciated :-)

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