"It looks the same on the powerpoint slide, but they are very different". The place is Austin, where an AMD engineer is commenting on the slides describing the Zen and Skylake schematics. In Portland, the Intel representatives could not agree more: "the implementation matters and is completely different". "We have to educate our customers that they can not simply compare AMD's 32 core with our 28 cores".

This morning kicks off a very interesting time in the world of server-grade CPUs. Officially launching today is Intel's latest generation of Xeon processors, based on the "Skylake-SP" architecture. The heart of Intel's new Xeon Scalable Processor family, the "Purley" 100-series processors incorporate all of Intel's latest CPU and network fabric technology, not to mention a very large number of cores.

Meanwhile, a couple of weeks back AMD soft-launched their new EPYC 7000 series processors. Based on the company's Zen architecture and scaled up to server-grade I/O and core counts, EPYC represents an epic achievement for AMD, once again putting them into the running for competitive, high performance server CPUs after nearly half a decade gone. EPYC processors have begun shipping, and just in time for today's Xeon launch, we also have EPYC hardware in the lab to test.

Today's launch is a situation that neither company has been in for quite a while. Intel hasn't had serious competition in years, and AMD has't been able to compete. As a result, both companies are taking the other's actions very seriously.

In fact we could go on for much longer than our quip above in describing the rising tension at the headquarters of AMD and Intel. For the first time in 6 years (!), a credible alternative is available for the newly launched Xeon. Indeed, the new Xeon "Skylake-SP" is launching today, and the yardstick for it is not the previous Xeon (E5 version 4), but rather AMD's spanking new EPYC server CPU. Both CPUs are without a doubt very different: micro architecture, ISA extentions, memory subsystem, node topology... you name it. The end result is that once again we have the thrilling task of finding out how the processors compare and which applications their various trade-offs make sense.

The only similarity is that both server packages are huge. Above you see the two new Xeon packages –with and without an Omni-Path connector – both of which are as big as a keycard. And below you can see how one EPYC CPU fills the hand of AMD's CEO Dr. Lisa Su. 

Both are 64 bit x86 CPUs, but that is where the similarities end. For those of you who have been reading Ian's articles closely, this is no surprise. The consumer-focused Skylake-X is the little brother of the newly launched Xeon "Purley", both of which are cut from the same cloth that is the Skylake-SP family. In a nutshell, the Skylake-SP family introduces the following new features: 

  1. AVX-512 (Many different variants of the ISA extension are available)
  2. A 1 MB (instead of a 256 KB) L2-cache with a non-inclusive L3
  3. A mesh topology to connected the cores and L3-cache chunks together

Meanwhile AMD's latest EPYC Server CPU was launched a few weeks ago:

On the package are four silicon dies, each one containing the same 8-core silicon we saw in the AMD Ryzen processors. Each silicon die has two core complexes, each of four cores, and supports two memory channels, giving a total maximum of 32 cores and 8 memory channels on an EPYC processor. The dies are connected by AMD’s newest interconnect, the Infinity Fabric...

In the next pages, we will be discussing the impact of these architectural choices on server software. 

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  • sharath.naik - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Here is the link for you a single Xeon E5 v4 22 core does 5.3 (Dual at 5.9)jobs a day compared to dual Epyc 6.3. Ok they are 7% apart for dual socket but only 15% faster for dual epyc compared to single Xeon E5. Big Data does not do well in NUMA set up, same is the case with any regular large data applications. Try running EPYC without splitting spark into multiple processes, you will see how terrible a dual EPYC is going to be (the review mentions it but does not give a graph). Now this is terrible, to use EPYC first you need to change the way you build and run the applications and then expect 7-15% advantage vs a 2000$ CPU. It simple shows that EPYC is only use full for VMs and some synthetic tests. Any applications that deal with data can and should stay away from EPYC
  • warreo - Friday, July 14, 2017 - link

    Why are you comparing Spark 1.5 benchmarks against 2.1.1? Johan pointed out in the article why they are not comparable and why he is using the new 2.1.1 benchmark.

    The exact Dual Xeon E5 2699 v4 you are referencing that did 5.9 jobs per day in Spark 1.5 only does 4.9 jobs per day on Spark 2.1.1. If we assume a similar % gap between dual and single as it was in Spark 1.5, then a single Xeon E5 2699 v4 would be capable of only 4.4 jobs per day in Spark 2.1.1, which is a 43% difference compared to dual Epycs.

    Even leaving that aside, your exact arguments can be applied to the new Xeons as well, which are only 5% faster than the Epycs. Do you think the new Xeons suck as well?

    Same thing for splitting Spark into multiple processes and needing to re-write applications -- you also run into the exact same issue with the new Xeons (which Johan also explictly points out).

    Based on your arguments, I'm confused why you are taking aim only at Epyc and not the new Xeons. Please let me know if I'm missing something here.
  • AleXopf - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Username checks out
  • deltaFx2 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    "four 8core desktop dies" Oh, on the contrary. It's really a 4 die MCM server part, and each die is being sold as a desktop part. Nobody puts interconnect (fabric) on a desktop part. MCM is something intel has also done way back in the dual core era, and IBM continues to do. Don't float that canard re. desktop parts, it's just a design choice. AMD isn't trying to beat Intel in every market, just in some, and it does that. It might not win in HPC or big enterprise database (idk), but if you are a public cloud provider in the business of renting 4c8t or 8c16t VMs, AMD has a solid product. Now throw in the 128 PCIe lanes, which intel can't come close to. In fact, a 32c Naples in 1P is something that Intel has nothing to compete against for applications like storage, GPGPU, etc. The question isn't if it's good enough to run Intel out of business in the server space; that's not happening. It didn't when AMD had a superior product in Opteron. The question is, is it good enough for 5-10% market share in 2018-2019?

    "Intel cores are superior than AMD so a 28 core xeon is equal to ~40 cores if you compare again Ryzen core so this whole 28core vs 32core is a marketing trick". And yet all the numbers presented above point to the opposite. Ryzen != Epyc and i7700K != Syklake EP/SP, if that's where you're getting your numbers from. If not, present data.
  • Amiga500 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    No surprise that the Intel employee is descending to lies and deceit to try and plaster over the chasms! They've also reverted to bribing suppliers to offer Ryzen with only crippled memory speeds too (e.g. pcspecialist.co.uk - try and get a Ryzen system with >2133 MHz memory, yet the SKL-X has up top 3600 MHz memory --- the kicker is - they used to offer Ryzen at up to 3000 MHz memory!). It would seem old habits die hard.

    Hopefully the readers are wise enough to look at the performance data and make their decisions from that.

    If OEMs are willing to bend to Intels dirty dollars, I trust customers will eventually choose to take their business elsewhere. We certainly won't be using pcspecialist again in the near future.
  • Shankar1962 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Look at the picture in this article and see what the big players reported when they upgraded to Skylake

    Don't hate a company for the sake of argument. The world we live today from a hardware technology standpoint is because of Intel and respect it

  • Shankar1962 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    I agree. Intel has been a data center leader and pioneered for decades now. It has proven track record and overall platform stability consistency and strong portfolio and roadmap. With intel transforming to a data company i see that the best is yet to come as it did smart acquisitions and I believe products with IP from those aquired companies are still nnot fully integrated. Everyone loves an underdog and its clear that everyones excited as someone is getting 5% share and Intel won't be sitting....they did it in the past they will do it again:)
  • 0ldman79 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    I find the power consumption info quite interesting, especially considering the TDP ratings for the processors.

    The platform makes a difference, though I wonder what the actual difference is. Intel and AMD have been rating their TDP differently for years now.
  • Atom11 - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    After all these tests we still know nothing about AVX512. According to the specs, the floating point should be about 2x faster on CPU with AVX512 in compare to CPU without AVX512. There should be a clear line between Gcc and Icc. Gcc compiler does not support AVX512 anyway and it otherwise also has a relatively limited vectorization support. Not using Icc means, not using the only compiler which actually supports the Intel hardware features. But it yes, it is a difficult comparison, because you need both Instructions and Software which uses those instructions optimized the best way possible and some users simply don't bother about using optimized software. It would be nice to see comparison between: GCC+ AMD and ICC+Intel. So that only compiler is changed, but also the code is written so that it is possible for it to be efficiently vectorized and threaded. What can I get on Intel, if I use best possible software stack and what can I get on AMD? The current article only answers the question: What can i get on AMD and Intel if I dont bother with software stack and optimization.
  • yuhong - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - link

    Inphi has a press release about shipping 1 million DDR3 LR-DIMM buffers six months before the launch of Haswell-E: https://www.inphi.com/media-center/press-room/pres... I wonder how many they shipped total so far (and also Montage).

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