Introducing AMD's Opteron 6200 Series

When virtualization started to get popular (ca. 2005-2007), there was a fear that this might slow the server market down. Now several years later, the server market has rarely disappointed and continues to grow. For example, IDC reported a 12% increase in revenue when comparing Q1 2010 and Q1 2011. The server market in total accounted for $12 billion revenue and almost two million shipments in Q1 2011, and while the best desktop CPUs generally sell for $300, server chips typically start at $500 and can reach prices of over $3000. With the high-end desktop market shrinking to become a niche for hardcore enthusiasts--helped by the fact that moderate systems from several years back continue to run most tasks well--the enterprise market is very attractive.

Unfortunately for AMD, their share of the lucrative server market has fallen to a very low percentage (4.9%) according IDC's report early this year (some report 6-7%). It is time for something new and better from AMD, and it seems that the Bulldozer architecture is AMD's most server-centric CPU architecture ever. We quote Chuck Moore, Chief Architect AMD:

By having the shared architecture, reducing the size and sharing things that aren’t commonly used in their peak capacity in server workloads, “Bulldozer” is actually very well aligned with server workloads now and on into the future. In fact, a great deal of the trade-offs in Bulldozer were made on behalf of servers, and not just one type of workload, but a diversity of workloads.

This alginment with server workloads can also be found in the specs:

  Opteron 6200
Opteron 6100
Xeon 5600
Cores (Modules)/Threads 8/16 12/12 6/12
L1 Instructions 8x 64 KB 2-way 12x 64 KB 2-way 6x 32 KB 4-way
L1 Data 16x 16 KB 4-way 12x 64 KB 2-way 6x 32 KB 4-way
L2 Cache 4x 2MB 12x 0.5MB 6x 256 KB
L3 Cache 2x 8MB 2x 6MB 12MB
Memory Bandwidth 51.2GB/s 42.6GB/s 32GB/s
IMC Clock Speed 2GHz 1.8GHz 2GHz
Interconnect 4x HT 3.1 (6.4 GT/s) 4x HT 3.1 (6.4 GT/s) 2x QPI (4.8-6.4 GT/s)

The new Opteron has loads of cache, faster access to memory and more threads than ever. Of course, a good product is more than a well designed microarchitecture with impressive specs on paper. The actual SKUs have to be attractively priced, reach decent clock speeds, and above all offer a good performance/watt ratio. Let us take a look at AMD's newest Opterons and how they are positioned versus Intel's competing Xeons.

AMD vs. Intel 2-socket SKU Comparison
Xeon Cores/
TDP Clock
Price Opteron Modules/
TDP Clock
High Performance High Performance
X5690 6/12 130W 3.46/3.6/3.73 $1663          
X5675 6/12 95W 3.06/3.33/3.46 $1440          
X5660 6/12 95W 2.8/3.06/3.2 $1219          
X5650 6/12 95W 2.66/2.93/3.06 $996 6282 SE 8/16 140W 2.6/3.0/3.3 $1019
Midrange Midrange
E5649 6/12 80W 2.53/2.66/2.8 $774 6276 8/16 115W 2.3/2.6/3.2 $788
E5640 4/8 80W 2.66/2.8/2.93 $774          
          6274 8/16 115W 2.2/2.5/3.1 $639
E5645 6/12 80W 2.4/2.53/2.66 $551 6272 8/16 115W 2.0/2.4/3.0 $523
          6238 6/12 115W 2.6/2.9/3.2 $455
E5620 4/8 80W 2.4/2.53/2.66 $387 6234 6/12 115W 2.4/2.7/3.0 $377
High clock / budget High clock / budget
X5647 4/8 130W 2.93/3.06/3.2 $774          
E5630 4/8 80W 2.53/2.66/2.8 $551 6220 4/8 115W 3.0/3.3/3.6 $455
E5607 4/4 80W 2.26 $276 6212 4/8 115W 2.6/2.9/3.2 $266
Power Optimized Power Optimized
L5640 6/12 60W 2.26/2.4/2.66 $996          
L5630 4/8 40W 2.13/2.26/2.4 $551 6262HE 8/16 85W 1.6/2.1/2.9 $523

The specifications (16 threads, 32MB of cache) and AMD's promises that Interlagos would outperform Magny-cours by a large margin created the impression that the Interlagos Opteron would give the current top Xeons a hard time. However, the newest Opteron cannot reach higher clock speeds than the current Opteron (6276 at 2.3GHz), and AMD positions the Opteron 6276 2.3GHz as an alternative to the Xeon E5649 at 2.53GHz. As the latter has a lower TDP, it is clear that the newest Opteron has to outperform this Xeon by a decent margin. In fact most server buyers expect a price/performance bonus from AMD, so the Opteron 6276 needs to perform roughly at the level of the X5650 to gain the interest of IT customers.

Judging from the current positioning, the high-end is a lost cause for now. First, AMD needs a 140W TDP chip to compete with the slower parts of Intel's high-end armada. Second, Sandy Bridge EP is coming out in the next quarter--we've already seen the desktop Sandy Bridge-E launch, and adding two more cores (four more threads) for the server version will only increase the performance potential. The Sandy Bridge cores have proven to be faster than Westmere cores, and the new Xeon E5 will have eight of them. Clock speeds will be a bit lower (2.0-2.5GHz), but we can safely assume that the new Xeon E5 will outperform its older brother by a noticeable margin and make it even harder for the new Opteron to compete in the higher end of the 2P market.

At the low-end, we see some interesting offerings from AMD. Our impression is that the 6212 at 2.6-2.9GHz is very likely to offer a better performance per dollar ratio than the low-end Xeons E560x that lack Hyper-Threading and turbo support.

Okay, we've done enough analyzing of paper specs; let's get to the hardware and the benchmarks. Before we do that, we'll elaborate a bit on what a server centric architecture should look like. What makes server applications tick?

What Makes Server Applications Different?
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  • mino - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    More workload ... also you need at least 3 servers for any meaningful redundancy ... even when only needing the power of 1/4 of iether of them.

    BTW. most cpu's sold in the SMB space are far cry from the 16-core monsters reviewed here ...
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Don't forget the big "Cloud" buyers. Facebook has increased the numbers of server from 10.000 somewhere in 2008 tot 10 times more in 2011. That is one of the reasons why the number of units is still growing.
  • roberto.tomas - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    seems like the front page write and this article are from different versions:

    from the write up: "Each of the 16 integer threads gets their own integer cluster, complete with integer executions units, a load/store unit, and an L1-data cache"

    from the article: "Cores (Modules)/Threads 8/16 [...] L1 Data 8x 64 KB 2-way"

    what is really surprising is calling them threads (I thought, like the write up on the front page, that they each had their own independent integer "unit"). If they have their own L1 cache, they are cores as far as I'm concerned. Then again, the article itself seems to suggest just that: they are threads without independent L1 cache.

    ps> I post comments only like once a year -- please dont delete my account. every time I do, I have to register anew :D
  • mino - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    I suits Intel better to call them threads ... so writers are ordered ... only if the pesky reality did not pop up here and there.

    BD 4200 series is an 1-chip, 4-module, 8(4*2)-core, 16(4*2)-thread processor
    BD 6200 series is a 2-chip, 8(2*4)-module, 16(2*4*2)-core, 16(2*4*2)-thread processor

    Xeon 5600 series is an (up to) 1-chip, 6-core, 12(6*2)-thread processor.

    Simple as cake. :D
  • rendroid1 - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    The L1 D-cache should be 1 per thread, 4-way, etc.

    The L1 I-cache is shared by 2 threads per "module", and is 2-way, etc.
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Yep. fixed. :-)
  • Novality77 - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    One thing that I never see in any reviews is remarks about the fact that more cores with lower IPC has added costs when it comes to licensing. For instance Oracle, IBM and most other suppliers charge per core. These costs can add up pretty fast. 10000 per core is not uncommon.....
  • fumigator - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Great review as usual. I found all the new AMD opterons very interesting. Pairing two in a dual socket G34 would make a multitasking monster on the cheap, and quite future proof.

    Abour cores vs modules vs hyperthreading, people thinking AMD cores aren't true cores, should consider the following:

    adding virtual cores on hyperthreading in intel platforms don't make performance increase 100% per core, but only less than 50%

    Also if you look at intel processor photographs, you won't notice the virtual cores anywhere in the pictures.
    While in interlagos/bulldozer you could clearly spot each core by its shape inside each module. What surprises me is how small they are, but that's for an entire different discussion.
  • MossySF - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    I'm waiting to see the follow-up Linux article. The hints in this one confirm my own experiences. At our company, we're 99% FOSS and when using Centos packages, AMD chips run just as fast as Intel chips since it's all compiled with GCC instead of Intel's "disable faster code when running on AMD processors" compiler. As an example, PostgreSQL on native Centos is just as fast on Thuban compared to Sandy Bridge at the same GHz. And when you then virtualize Centos under Centos+KVM, Thuban is 35% faster. (Nehalem goes from 10% slower natively to 50% slower under KVM!)

    The compiler issue might be something to look at in virtualization tests. If you fake an Intel identifier in your VM, optimizations for new instruction sets might kick in.
  • UberApfel - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Amazingly biased review from Anandtech.

    A fairer comparison would be between the Opteron 6272 ($539 / 8-module) and Xeon E5645 ($579 / 6-core); both common and recent processors.

    Yet handpicking the higher clocked Opteron 6276 (for what good reason?) seems to be nothing but an aim to make the new 6200 series seem un-remarkable in both power consumption and performance. The 6272 is cheaper, more common, and would beat the Xeon X5670 in power consumption which half this review is weighted on. Otherwise you should've used the 6282 SE which would compete in performance as well as being the appropriate processor according to your own chart.

    Even the chart on Page 1 is designed to make Intel look superior all-around. For what reason would you exclude the Opteron 4274 HE (65W TDP) or the Opteron 4256 EE (35W TDP) from the 'Power Optimized' section?

    The ignorance on processor tiers is forgivable even if you're likely paid to write this... but the benchmarks themselves are completely irrelevant. Where's the IIS/Apache/Nginx benchmark? PostgreSQL/SQLite? Facebook's HipHop? Node.js? Java? Something relevant to servers and not something obscure enough to sound professional?

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