The stellar performance of the Xeons based on the Nehalem and Westmere architectures had a dark side for Intel: it cast a big shadow on Intel's top of the line Xeon 7400 series. You can talk about RAS features all you want but when a dual-CPU configuration outperforms quad-CPU configurations of your top-of-the-line CPU, something is wrong. And if this happens in the applications the latter is supposed to excel in, something is very wrong. SAP, OLTP, and other high-end server workloads are the workloads that are supposed to run better on the most expensive Xeon, not on the "popular" Xeon. Even worse, the AMD six-core 8000 series outperforms Intel's Xeon X7460 by a large margin as of several months ago. Quad dodeca-CPU servers will start to pop up in the shops of several tier-one OEMs any moment now, so Intel's new Xeon EX has a serious challenge.

Intel emphasizes that its Xeon X7500 series plays in a higher league than the competition from Austin. The mission of the X7560 is to beat the RISC chips. That's not a bad strategy, as the RISC server buyers are used to paying a lot more for their servers. For example, a very basic IBM Power 7 configuration startsat $34000. Intel created an octal-core 16-thread giant based on the successful Nehalem architecture. To fit in with the other RISC monsters the CPU also comes with a massive L3 cache (24MB) and a bucket load of RAS features.

On the lower-end of the targeted high-end server market, the market where x86 traditionally did well, Intel is going to get fierce completion. AMD's latest 2.2GHz twelve-core 6174 comes with a price tag of $1165, regardless of whether the server features two or four sockets. Intel however expects the server manufacturers to cough up to $3692 for a 2.26GHz X7460. It's clear that both competitors are targeting a different market.

AMD is going after the cost conscious HPC/virtualization market, offering the best price/performance and performance/watt. Intel has no intention to compete on price/performance. It targets the higher-end market where software license costs are more important than the hardware, where downtime is so costly that people are willing to pay a premium for extra reliability features, and/or where the performance demands are extremely high. Intel's objective is to offer better performance than RISC vendors with similar RAS features at a lower price point. Up to 64 cores (8x8) and 128 threads and 512GB RAM can be found in a single Xeon 7500 series machine, so scalability should be quite impressive. For those who need RAS features but have no need for high performance, Intel offers the Xeon 6000 series. In this article we take a closer look at one of the most affordable Xeon 7500/6500, the Dell R810.

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  • dastruch - Monday, April 12, 2010 - link

    Thanks AnandTech! I've been waiting for an year for this very moment and if only those 25nm Lyndonville SSDs were here too.. :)
  • thunng8 - Monday, April 12, 2010 - link

    For reference, IBM just released their octal chip Power7 3.8Ghz result for the SAP 2 tier benchmark. The result is 202180 saps for approx 2.32x faster than the Octal chipNehalem-EX
  • Jammrock - Monday, April 12, 2010 - link

    The article cover on the front page mentions 1 TB maximum on the R810 and then 512 GB on page one. The R910 is the 1TB version, the R810 is "only" 512GB. You can also do a single processor in the R810. Though why you would drop the cash on an R810 and a single proc I don't know.
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    I wish I could afford something like this!

    I'm also curious how good it would be at gaming :) I know in many cases these server setups under-perform high end gaming machines, but I'd settle :) Still, something like this would be nice for my side business.
  • whatever1951 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    None of the Nehalem-EX numbers are accurate, because Nehalem-EX kernel optimization isn't in Windows 2008 Enterprise. There are only 3 commercial OSes right now that have Nehalem-EX optimization: Windows Server R2 with SQL Server 2008 R2, RHEL 5.5, SLES 11, and soon to be released CentOS 5.5 based on RHEL 5.5. Windows 2008 R1 has trouble scaling to 64 threads, and SQL Server 2008 R1 absolutely hates Nehalem-EX. You are cutting Nehalem-EX benchmarks short by 20% or so by using Windows 2008 R1.

    The problem isn't as severe for Magny cours, because the OS sees 4 or 8 sockets of 6 cores each via the enumerator, thus treats it with the same optimization as an 8 socket 8400 series CPU.

    So, please rerun all the benchmarks.
  • JohanAnandtech - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    It is a small mistake in our table. We have been using R2 for months now. We do use Windows 2008 R2 Enterprise.
  • whatever1951 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    Ok. Change the table to reflect Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 R2 information please.

    Any explanation for such poor memory bandwidth? Damn, those SMBs must really slow things down or there must be a software error.
  • whatever1951 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    It is hard to imagine 4 channels of DDR3-1066 to be 1/3 slower than even the westmere-eps. Can you remove half of the memory dimms to make sure that it isn't Dell's flex memory technology that's slowing things down intentionally to push sales toward R910?
  • whatever1951 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    As far as I know, when you only populate two sockets on the R810, the Dell R810 flex memory technology routes the 16 dimms that used to be connected to the 2 empty sockets over to the 2 center CPUs, there could be significant memory bandwidth penalties induced by that.
  • whatever1951 - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - link

    "This should add a little bit of latency, but more importantly it means that in a four-CPU configuration, the R810 uses only one memory controller per CPU. The same is true for the M910, the blade server version. The result is that the quad-CPU configuration has only half the bandwidth of a server like the Dell R910 which gives each CPU two memory controllers."

    Sorry, should have read a little slower. Damn, Dell cut half the memory channels from the R810!!!! That's a retarded design, no wonder the memory bandwidth is so low!!!!!

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