In February 2020, Intel launched eighteen new Xeon Scalable second generation processors. These mid-cycle additions to Intel’s product portfolio were designed to bolder up Intel’s server offerings on a very popular and very successful platform, adding in extra cores, extra frequency, or more cache than the previous offerings at roughly the same price. The goal of these ‘performance-oriented’ processors was to address customer requests in offering a more palatable performance-per-dollar offering. One of the new CPUs caught our eye: the Xeon Gold 6258R.

Skylake, Cascade Lake, Refresh

Colloquially known as ‘Cascade Lake Refresh’, these processors are the same silicon as the second generation Cascade Lake Xeon Scalable processors that were originally launched in April 2019. In most cases, the Refresh processors focus on both performance and performance-per-dollar metrics, especially given that Intel’s competition in this space were in a very competitive position and focusing on those values. Despite Intel’s data center revenue growing rapidly through 2019 and into 2020, there was a need to effectively replace or add new products into the areas where Intel believed it could keep a strong grasp on the customer base.

In our original announcement for the refresh parts, Intel touted an average performance gain of 36%, and a performance-per-dollar of 42%, although that was pictured as a 1st Gen to 2nd Gen Xeon Scalable jump. For a lot of the eighteen new processors on offer, they either added extra cores, more cache, or more frequency for the same cost as the parts they effectively replace. This usually comes with an increase in power consumption (there’s no escaping the physics), given there was no actual change to the underlying silicon, it simply was a function of binning and product margin.

One of the new parts was the Xeon Gold 6258R, with the R indicating ‘Refresh’. This processor was actually the highest core count refresh part, offering 28 cores at 2.7 GHz base and 4.0 GHz turbo within 205W.

For anyone who follows Intel’s server processor portfolio, those specifications look *very* familiar. Looking through the list, there is one very popular processor that has the exact same specifications: the Xeon Platinum 8280. Here’s the full breakdown:

Intel 2nd Generation Xeon Scalable
28-Core Comparison
Platinum
8280
AnandTech Gold
6258R
28 Cores / 56 Threads Cores / Threads 28 Cores / 56 Threads
2700 MHz Base Frequency 2700 MHz
4000 MHz Turbo Frequency 4000 MHz
38.5 MB L3 Cache 38.5 MB
3 x 10.4 GT/s UPI Links 3 x 10.4 GT/s
8 Max Socket Suport 2
6 x DDR4-2933 DDR4 Support 6 x DDR4-2933
1 TB DDR4 Capacity 1 TB
LGA3647 Socket LGA3647
205 W TDP 205 W
$10009 List Price $3950
 

The Platinum 8280 and the Gold 6258R are identical, almost to a fault. The same cores, the same frequency, the same power, and both support Optane DCPMM. The implementation difference is very subtle: where the 8280 supports 8-way socket deployments, the 6258R only supports 2-way. Intel has separated up the 8200 series and the 6200 series in this sole difference of socket support, which is actually more a firmware difference than anything else.

Oh, and the 6258R has a list price over $6000 cheaper.

Now, the reason why this is important comes down to where the 8280 sits in Intel’s Xeon portfolio. It is, for all intents and purposes, the processor that gets the most attention. It sits at the top of its public processor offerings*, it offers the most cores, and the list price is $10009**. If a non-technical executive is requesting ‘the best’ hardware for deployment, they naturally scroll to the most expensive part and add-to-basket. That processor would be the Xeon Platinum 8280.

 

However, most servers are single socket and dual socket, which essentially nullifies the ‘extra’ 4-socket and 8-socket capability that the Xeon 8280 offers. In this case, Does the 6258R, with the same specifications on core count, frequency, and power, perform the same as the 8280 but at a fraction of the price?

This is the question I set out to answer with access to both CPUs. Saving $6000 per single socket server, or $12000 in a dual socket configuration, would allow purchasers to focus that investment in other areas, such as memory or storage, or bring down the cost of purchasing quite considerably.

 

Footnotes

*Intel also offers a Xeon Platinum 8284 which also has the 28 cores that the 8280 does but is at a higher base frequency (same turbo) and 240W TDP. The list price is $15460, a +50% jump. This processor doesn’t seem to always be available everywhere, plus it was also launched months after the 8280.

**List prices from Intel are usually set as the price if someone buys 1000 units, so one would expect the individual cost would be slightly higher. However, major OEM partners and big hyperscalers rarely pay the list price, and the separate pricing is negotiated by contract. Rumors are that the big companies that might need a 100k units or more rarely pay more than 20-50%% of the list price. Exact figures are hard to come by.

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  • Duncan Macdonald - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    It is probably the same silicon - just with a fuse blown to disable the UPI link and restrict it to 2 sockets. Reply
  • Krysto - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    Buy the 32-core AMD Epyc? Reply
  • Tomatotech - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    Nice article. I note from the CPU-Z screenshot on the first page one of the few differences is the older chip has a core speed of 997mhz with a 10x multiplier, and the the new chip is at 1097mhz with a 11x multiplier.

    That seems worth commenting on, but it wasn’t discussed in the article?
    Reply
  • coschizza - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    Si the same from 10 to 40 Reply
  • Slash3 - Thursday, August 13, 2020 - link

    That's just a byproduct of an idling desktop. They'll float at low multipliers until a load is presented, and the reported frequency in each shot is, in this case, irrelevant. Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    My biggest take-home from this:
    Intel's CPU naming scheme is worse than ever and needs to die in a fire.

    Seriously - here we have two near-identical CPUs, the sole difference being the extent of their multi-socket capability, and the only part of their name they have in common is "Xeon".
    Reply
  • shabby - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    Maybe its me but this just seems like a pointless article. Reply
  • romrunning - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    Would have been nice to see AMD's EPYC 7742 processor results with those two Xeons. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    This is more a comment on a number of other comments here: When it comes to mission-critical servers, reliability and availability is often if not always the # 1 criterion. Not sheer processing power, or even efficiency or price. That is where AMD must invest and show commitment, and to the whole package: CPU, chip set, software support. Once the perception on Intel with Xeon always being the safer choice is gone, AMD will shift a lot more EPYCs and related products. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    I’m glad this article made it clear that AMD doesn’t exist.

    I would have thought that EPYC would have been presented in the benchmarks to show the alternative to Intel competing with itself but what do so know?
    Reply

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