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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  • UberApfel - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    If anyone finds me a madman; let me explain this simply by example. Benchmark choices aside...

    If this test were to compare any of the top or middle-tier processors on the "AMD vs. Intel 2-socket SKU Comparison" chart ( ) with their matching competition; this article would tell a different story in essence. Which does in fact, regardless of how fair the written conclusion may be, makes it biased.

    X5650 vs 6282 SE
    E5649 vs 6276
    E5645 vs 6272
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    "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"

    Do you realize you are blaming AMD? That is the CPU they sent us.

    "The 6272 is cheaper, more common, and would beat the Xeon X5670 in power consumption which half this review is weighted on."

    The 6272 is nothing more than a lower speedbin of the 6276. It has the same power consumption but slightly lower performance. Performance/wat is thus worse.

    "PostgreSQL/SQLite? Facebook's HipHop? Node.js? Java? Something relevant to servers and not something obscure enough to sound professional? "

    We use Zimbra, Phpbb, Apache, MySQL. What is your point? that we don't include every server software on the planet? If you look around how many publications are running good repeatable server benchmarks? If it would be so easy as running Cinebench or Truecrypt, I think everybody would be.

    "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?"

    To be honest, those CPUs were not even in AMD's presentation that we got. We were only briefed about Interlagos.
  • UberApfel - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Did they send you the Xeon X5670 also? I suppose who's ever handling media relations at AMD is either careless or disgruntled. eg. Sending a slightly overclocked processor with a 30% staple that happens to scale unusually bad in terms of power efficiency.

    Please just answer this honestly; if you had compared a Opteron 6272 w/ a E5645 ... would your article present a different story?

    Fair as you may have tried to be; you don't have to look far to find a comment here that came to the "BD is a joke" conclusion.


    Using a phpbb stress test is hardly useful or relevent as a server benchmark; nevermind under a VM. Unless configured extensively; it's I/O bound. "Average Response Time" is also irrelevant; how is the reader to know if your 'response time' does not favor processors better with single-threaded applications?

    Additionally; VM's on a better single-threaded processor will score higher in benchmarks due to the overhead as parallelism isn't optimized. Yet these results make zero sense in real-world usage. It contradicts the value of VM's; flexible scalability for low-usage applications.

    Finally; I'd estimate that less than 5% of servers are virtual (if that). VM's are most popular with web servers and even there they have a small market share as they only appeal to small clients. Large clients use clusters of dedicated; tiny clients use shared dedicated.

    Did you even use gcc 4.7 or Open64? In some applications; the new versions yield up to 300% higher performance for Bulldozer.
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    "if you had compared a Opteron 6272 w/ a E5645 ... would your article present a different story?"

    You want us to compare a $551 80W TDP Intel cpu with a $774 115 AMD CPU?

    "Unless configured extensively; it's I/O bound."
    We know how to monitor with ESX top. There is a reason why we have a disk system of 2 SDDs and 6 x 15k SAS disks.

    "Average Response Time" is also irrelevant
    Huh? That is like saying that 0-60 mph acceleration times are irrelevant to sports cars.

    "Finally; I'd estimate that less than 5% of servers are virtual (if that)"
    ....Your estimate unfortunately was true in 2006. We are 2011 now. Your estimate is 10x off, maybe more.
  • UberApfel - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    "You want us to compare a $551 80W TDP Intel cpu with a $774 115 AMD CPU?"

    "The 6272 is nothing more than a lower speedbin of the 6276. It has the same power consumption but slightly lower performance. Performance/wat is thus worse."
    By your logic; the FX-8120 and FX-8150 have equal power consumption. They don't.

    "We know how to monitor with ESX top. There is a reason why we have a disk system of 2 SDDs and 6 x 15k SAS disks."
    It's still I/O bound unless configured extensively.

    "Huh? That is like saying that 0-60 mph acceleration times are irrelevant to sports cars."
    Yeah; it is if you're measuring the distance traveled by a number of cars. The opteron is obviously slower in handling single requests but it can handle maybe twice as many at the same time. Unless your stress test made every request @ T=0 and your server successfully qued them all, dropped none, and included the que time in the response time... it would favor the xeon immensely. Perhaps it does do all this; which is why I said "how is the reader to know" when you could have just as easily done 'Average Requests Completed Per Second'.

    "....Your estimate unfortunately was true in 2006. We are 2011 now. Your estimate is 10x off, maybe more."
    Very funny. Did the salesman that told you that also recommend these benchmarks? Folklore tells that Google alone has over a million servers, 20X that of Rackspace or ThePlanet, and they aren't running queries on VM's.
  • boomshine - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    I hope you included MS SQL 2008 performance just like in opteron 6174 review:
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Yes, that test failed to be repeatable for some weird reason. We will publish it as soon as we get some reliable numbers out of it.
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    "SMT can only execute a single thread at once. "

    The whole point of SMT is to have one thread in one execution and another thread in the other execution slot.

    In fact, the very definition of SMT is that two or more threads can execute in parallel on a superscalar execution engine.
  • TC2 - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    another joke from AMD with their BD "server-centric" architecture - bla-bla! amd 8\16 against intel 6\12 and again can't win!
  • pcfxer - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    " make of lots of DLLs--or in Linux terms, they have more dependencies"

    Libraries is the word you're looking for.

    I also see the mistake of mixing programming APIs/OS design/Hardware design...

    Good software has TLBs, asynchronous locking where possible, etc, as does hardware but they are INDEPENDENT. The glue as you know, is how compiled code is treated at the uCode level. IMO, AMD hardware is fully capable of outperforming Intel hardware, but AMD uCode is incredibly good.

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