It is generally accepted as common knowledge that the high-end RISC server vendors—IBM and Oracle—have been bleeding market share in favor of high-end Intel Xeon based servers. Indeed, the RISC market accounts for about 150k units while the x86 market has almost 10 million servers. About 5% of those 10 million units are high-end x86 servers, so the Xeon E7 server volume is probably only 2-4 times the size of the whole RISC market. Still, that tiny amount of RISC servers represents about 50% of the server market revenues.

But the RISC vendors have finally woken up. IBM has several Power7+ based servers that are more or less price competitive with the Xeon E7. Sun/Oracle's server CPUs have been lagging severely in performance. The UltraSPARC T1 and T2 for example were pretty innovative but only performed well in a very small niche of the market, while offering almost ridicously low performance in any application (HPC, BI, ERP ) that needed decent per-thread performance.

Quite surprisingly, Oracle has been extremely aggressive the past few years. The "S3" core of the octal-core SPARC T4 launched at the end of 2011 was finally a competitive server core. Compared to the quad-issue Westmere core inside the contemporary Xeon E7 , it was still a simple core, but gone were the single-issue in-order designs of the T1 and T2 at laughably low clock speeds. No, instead, the SUN server chip received a boost to an out-of-order dual-issue chip at pretty decent 3GHz clocks. Each core could support eight threads but also execute two threads simultaneously. Last year, the Sparc-T5, an improved T4, had twice as many cores at 20% higher clocks.

As usual, the published benchmarks are very vague and are only available for the top models, the TDP is unknown, and the best performing systems come with astronomic price tags ($950,000 for two servers, some networking, and storage... really?). In a nutshell, every effort is made to ensure you cannot compare these with the servers of "Big Blue" or the x86 competition. Even Oracle's "technical deep dive" seems to be written mostly to please the marketing people out there. A question like "Does the SPARC T5 also support both single-threaded and multi-threaded applications?" must sound particularly hilarious to our technically astute readers.

Oracle's nebulous marketing to justify some of the outrageous prices has not changed, but make no mistake: something is brewing among the RISC vendors. SUN/Oracle is no longer the performance weakling in the server market, some IBM Power systems are priced quite reasonably, and the Intel Xeon E7—still based on the outdated Westmere Core—is starting to show its age. Not surprisingly, it's time for a "tick-tock" update of the Xeon E7. The new Xeon E7 48xx v2 is baked in a better process (22nm vs 32nm) and comes with 2012's "Ivy Bridge" core, enhanced for server/IT markets to become "Ivy Bridge EX".

Meet the New Xeon E7 v2
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  • snoopy1710 - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    Minor correction on the Dell E7-4890 SAP benchmark, which was done on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications:

  • FunBunny2 - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    you should opt for ubuntu 12.04. "real" databases are approved only for LTS versions, and 12.04 is the latest.
  • bji - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    Page 10 does not contain the Linux Kernel Compile time benchmarks.
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - link

    The web engine did something weird...I restored the page
  • JawsOfLife - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    Very thorough review, which is what I've come to expect from Anandtech! I am interested but not very knowledgeable about the server side of computing, so this definitely filled me in on a lot of the facets of that area. Thanks for the writeup.

    By the way, the "Linux Kernel Compile" page is blank, as bji noted.
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - link

    Thx. A glitch in the engine made it delete a page. Restored.
  • iwod - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    While the revenue are high, just how many unit are shipped?
    I have been thinking if Intel would move Mobile First, meaning Atom, Tablet and Laptop Chips all gets the latest node first, which are low power design. While Desktop and Server will be a Architecture and Node behind. Which will align the Desktop and Xeon E3 - E5 Series.

    But it seems the volume of Chips dont quite measure out, since the top end volume are far too small? Anyone have any idea on this.
  • dealcorn - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - link

    I believe the statement "Still, that tiny amount of RISC servers represents about 50% of the server market revenues." should read "Still, that tiny amount of RISC servers represents about 50% of the high end server market revenues." Stated differently, from a revenue perspective Intel is #1 vendor in the high end segment even though it has less than a 50% market share. Server orders are placed with vendors, not architectures. Intel has fought an uphill battle to access the high end market and it is costly. However, if Intel can amortize its development costs over a larger revenue base than any competitor, it is well positioned to maintain it's share acquisition momentum.
  • NikosD - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - link


    Very nice review, I would like to see more benchmarks between E7 v2 vs RISC processors because I think the real competition is there.

    Older Intel and AMD servers are not real competition for IvyBridge-EX.

    It would be interesting when POWER8 is out, to give us the new figures of 8 socket benchmarks and if there is any progress on more 8+ sockets for Intel E7 v2 (built by Cray and other vendors)

    I think that E7 v2 (I don't know about older vendors) can be placed in up to 32-socket systems - not natively of course.
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - link

    Older Intel systems are competition, because these kind of servers are not replaced quickly. If a new generation does not deliver substantial gains, some companies will postpone replacement. In fact, very few people that already have a quad intel consider the move to RISC platforms.

    But you have a point. But it is almost impossible for us to do an independent review of other vendors. I have never seen an independent review, and the systems are too scarce, so there is little chance that we can ask a friendly company to borrow us one.

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