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July 2, 2010 • Vol.32 Issue 14
Page(s) 1 in print issue

AMD's New Server Platforms
What Kind Of Performance Can You Expect?

Key Points

• With the Opteron 6000 Series, you’ll get more cores and more memory, and the 6000 Series offers improved bandwidth and support for faster memory speeds.

• You won’t pay a luxury tax for investing in a 4P server.

• 6000 Series processors include a variety of ways to automatically and manually manage power and cooling.

With the new Opteron 6000 Series, AMD has taken multicore design to a new level—one with 12 or eight cores. The increased number of cores is ideal for today’s ecommerce, virtualization, and database environments that are designed to natively allocate cores and realize huge performance jumps when more cores are added to the mix. The jump in processing power in the Opteron 6000 Series may even let you install a single 2P or 4P server that can replace the duties of several older single- or dual-core servers. Here, we’ll cover the variety of features found in the 6000 Series and how the features stack up to the six-core and quad-core Opteron series.

Clocking The Opteron 6000 Series

Gina Longoria, director of product management for AMD’s Server and Workstation Division, says that the new 12-core Opteron 6100 Series processors can offer up to a 61% increase in performance over the six-core Opteron 2400 Series. What’s impressive is that AMD found a way to double the processor cores from the six-core and quad-core Opteron lineups without significantly lowering the clock speed of the processor. For example, the Opteron 6176 SE represents the high end of 12 cores with a 2.3GHz clock speed, 1.8GHz Northbridge, and 12 processor cores, while the 8439 SE is the fastest six-core processor with a 2.8GHz clock speed and 2.2GHz Northbridge. Both feature an average CPU power of 105 watts.

Another upgrade in the Opteron 6000 Series is the built-in support for four memory channels and up to DDR3-1333MHz speeds via AMD’s Direct Connect Architecture 2.0. Compared to DDR2 platforms of the six-core and quad-core Opterons, which support up to two memory channels and DDR2 memory, you’ll experience an almost 2.5 times increase in overall memory bandwidth.

“The Opteron 6000 Series platform is also great for memory-intensive applications because of the memory footprint availability,” Longoria says. The 6000 Series supports up to 12 memory modules to help you reduce the amount you spend on RAM. For example, the greater memory flexibility gives you the ability to fill the server with lower-capacity RAM, such as 2GB and 4GB, to avoid investing in costly 8GB modules for high-capacity environments. Those that work in high-performance computing environments will appreciate that the Opteron 6000 Series is scalable up to 4P and 48 dimms, which would be great for handling peak loads with a low response time.

HyperTransport 3.0

System bandwidth among the input/output paths, such as processor-to-processor and processor-to-memory, is a key benchmark when dealing with memory- and processor-intensive tasks such as cloud computing. The Opteron 6000 Series delivers speeds up to 6.4GBps to improve the balance between processor and memory speeds and increase overall scalability. The same technology can be found on AMD’s six-core and quad-core Opteron series. AMD also built HyperTransport Assist technology into the Opteron 6000 Series to reduce probe traffic and resolve probe issues, which can increase the efficiency of HyperTransport 3.0.

If your enterprise has or will move to a virtualized environment, a 4P server is ideal for handling the demands made to the CPU, input/output, and memory resources.

However, many organizations have stayed away from 4P servers because there has traditionally been an extra cost associated with 4P-capable processors. The entire Opteron 6000 Series is compatible with 1P, 2P, and 4P servers, so you won’t pay a premium for the parts to meet your high-performance computing needs. Instead, you can focus on how many you want and what type of memory you’ll install.

In addition, the 6000 Series supports a variety of power and performance controls to help you save money when the processors are idle. It can automatically implement a C1E power state, which reduces the CPU speed when the server is performing less CPU-intensive tasks, and IT staff can remotely monitor the power and cooling of processors through AMD’s APML (Advanced Platform Management Link). For example, an APML-enabled server can let you manage platform power consumption through P-state limits and CPU thermals without going into the BIOS. With AMD’s CoolSpeed technology, the server can also automatically reduce P-states when a temperature limit surpasses safe operational settings.

What’s Next?

AMD’s Opteron 4000 Series processors are designed for low-cost, low-power servers. The 4000 Series processors will reportedly be available in quad- and six-core models and support two memory channels. In 2011, AMD expects to release 12- and 16-core processors within the Opteron 6000 Series platform, while the low-power 4000 Series is expected to include six- and eight-core varieties. AMD says that all models will feature the same core with the SR500 Series chipset and G34 or C32 sockets.

by Nathan Lake


A Breakdown Of Your Opteron Options

Server Platform Core Counts Core Frequency Speed Options Wattage Options Best For
Opteron 6000 Series 12 and 8 2.3 to 1.7GHz 105 and 80 High-performance computing, virtualization, database and business applications, and cloud computing environments
Six-Core AMD Opteron 6 2.8 to 1.8GHz 105, 75, 55, and 40 Web, cloud computing, database, and virtualization tasks
Quad-Core AMD Opteron 4 3.1 to 1.7GHz 105, 75, 55, and 40 IT infrastructure, Web, and email or collaboration work


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