The launch of the Athlon MP was a bittersweet victory for AMD just under two years ago. AMD was able to deliver performance that was significantly faster than Intel’s brand new Xeon, but despite performance leadership, the CPU never really took off.

AMD had limited success in the server market with the Athlon MP, with most of their sales going to HPC customers for large clusters, but very few sales in the web and database server arenas. With no Tier 1 OEMs supporting the platform, most of the larger IT firms wouldn’t touch the Athlon MP with a 10-foot pole, so Intel enjoyed uninterrupted dominance in the web/database server markets.

By the end of the Athlon MP’s life, Intel’s performance had improved significantly to the point where AMD no longer held a performance advantage (although their usual low cost was a factor), further reducing any reason to pursue Athlon MP based servers.

The launch of the Opteron processor gave AMD a much needed breath of new life and energy, especially with the announcement that IBM would be producing servers based on the new Opteron platform. Unfortunately, IBM’s designs are, once again, targeted at the HPC market and left the web and database servers for Intel and IBM processors to handle.

More recently, Sun announced support for the Opteron in their 2004 product line, but again, it is on the shoulders of the 2nd and 3rd tier manufacturers to provide Opteron solutions for web and database serving applications. But before there can be a demand, there must be some information on the performance of the Opteron in these sorts of applications.

We’ve already seen how the Opteron can perform in most computation-intensive applications as well as workstation applications, but what about as a web server? Or a database server? In our original coverage of AMD’s Opteron, we offered some performance analysis of both web and database server applications with the Opteron, but AMD has made a couple of steps recently to warrant a second look at the performance picture.

First and foremost, the launch of 4-way Opteron platforms has made many of our IT readers (and us included) wonder how a 4-way Opteron would stack up against a 4-way Xeon MP box. With AMD’s more scalable Opteron architecture, any performance advantages a 2-way Opteron had over a 4-way Xeon should, in theory, be greater.

AMD has also recently launched higher clock speed versions of the Opteron at 2.2GHz, equal in speed to the fastest Athlon 64 FX currently available.

But quite possibly one of the biggest reasons for this comparison is that we’ve been looking internally to upgrade our server platforms from the aging Athlon MPs and needed to evaluate the Opteron as a potential upgrade path.

Since we last wrote about our server upgrades at AnandTech, we added a 2-way Xeon DP 2.8GHz server with Hyper-Threading and were pleasantly surprised with the performance offered by the platform. We have also spent a great deal of time looking at 4-way solutions for a potential upgrade to our database servers, also requiring a more in-depth look at the latest in Opteron offerings.

We have more than just this one article to bring to you the full spectrum of Opteron performance; but to kick it all off, we’re going to look at web serving performance in a head-to-head match between the Opteron and Xeon.

We’re not going to rehash any of the Opteron’s architecture in this article, so make sure that you’ve read our Intro to Opteron/K8 Architecture before proceeding.

AMD Updates their 2xx Series
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  • Blackbrrd - Wednesday, March 3, 2004 - link

    It would be nice to see how the Xeon 2,8GHz DP 533mhz bus (no L3 cache) does against the Opteron 242 set up, as the price for these are about the same. As it is the fastest Intel CPU I can buy from for instance DELL is a 3,2GHz DP with 1MB L3 cache.

    As it is, we will be buying an Opteron server quite soon, based on the outcome of these benchmarks.

    About using a ramdisk: what they have actually tested is how a java webserver performs on the different CPU's. I am working in a small company that uses a java webserver with quite a bit of business logic, not just db inserts updates and selects. This test was about as spot on as you can get.

    Happy to see a site that isn't only doing game pc benchmarking :)
  • Ben98SentraSE - Sunday, January 11, 2004 - link

    First off, GREAT article. I check this site several times a day to see when the next review(s) in this area come out! :)

    I am the IS Manager at a medium-sized credit union and we are converting our core processing application from one that runs on an overpriced Unisys A-Series mainframe (good riddance) to one that runs on Oracle and Windows Server 2003. From Anandtech's articles (as well as a few other reviews around the web) I plan on purchasing Opteron servers to run this new system. Today I can run 32-bit and be fast, and tomorrow when Oracle's AMD64 version of 9i comes out of developer release and either when the AMD64 version of Server 2003 comes out or we become comfortable enough with Linux+Oracle, we can be faster. The point of stating this is just another prop to Anandtech's team that their IT Computing reviews are affecting purchasing in the real world at places like where I work that can purchase the best equipment for the job and for the price, regardless of brand. (thankfully!)

    If I could ask for ANY changes to's reviews, I'd request a larger focus to IT computing. It is hard for me to find sources of information on server-type performance benchmarks in as much depth as Anandtech goes into them.
  • Jason Clark - Saturday, December 20, 2003 - link

    There we go :) Less confusing zuni = jason clark.
  • Zuni - Saturday, December 20, 2003 - link

    Trog, sure I did Zuni = Jason Clark I'll change my nic to my real name shortly as it is confusing. I co-wrote the article with anand.


    The database side of this equation is coming, we're just waiting on some cabling for our u320 drive chasis.
  • Visual - Saturday, December 20, 2003 - link

    Zuni, thanks for responding, whoever you are ;)

    Seems you'll need to run some DB benches on those cpus, or even DB and webserver at once, for this review to be complete... as for me, I'm curious about how much better the A64 can be in 64bit mode :)

    I'm eager to see your next articles, and I want to say thanks to the whole AnandTech team for the great site you're making :)
  • TrogdorJW - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Ugh... I feel like we keep talking past each other. I know and understand that the database was not being used as part of *this* benchmark. My point is that database operations are often a pretty major part of many web servers out there, so, I am curious as to what performance is when you're running the database and web server and everything else together on one system. Consider it a request for a future benchmark, not a fault with the present case.

    As an example, say you have some business that doesn't have a whole lot of money to spend on a server, so they're looking at a Linux box running Apache web server and PHP/MySQL. Certainly, this setup on a single system will not be able to handle a huge amount of traffic, like the web site. However, I would like to see how much traffic such a system *can* handle. And how does the Athlon 64/FX compare to the Pentium 4 in such an arena? Is disk I/O more of a factor, or does the Athlon architecture actually do better?

    Any chance of getting such a benchmark done? Not necessarily with those specific applications, of course, but something similar? Or, if that's a pointless benchmark, please give reasons... maybe it's already been tested by others? Whatever.

    Thanks for the responses, though. And you never answered: is "Zuni" Anand or Jason, or is it someone else who just worked with those two on the article?
  • Zuni - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Essentially using a ramdisk allowed neither cpu to have a limit on its scalability. That's what we were after, and doing that without having expensive raid arrays that are only used when we run a server test. It provided no benefit to either manufacturer it just allowed neither to be limited in any fashion. It worked well, and the numbers show that. I sure hope we can run itanium, we're trying to get ahold of one for you guys.

    Cheers, and everyone have a great holiday!.
  • Falco. - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Zuni, thanks for all the replies, and please keep in mind that most of the replies are not from me, but from a friend of mine that knows ALOT more about this then i do :-)
  • Abraxas - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    trogdorjw, in the article it states that the database WAS a bottleneck as you've pointed out, however, it does say "particularly with the opteron." to me this is saying that the database was not a bottleneck with the xeon servers and moreso with the opteron, ie the opteron was only maxed out when using the ramdisk and did not have as much of a performance advantage without it. this would not mean that the opteron had NO advantage over intel with a more normal disk setup. the article also pointed out that even the lower-end opterons (240) would have an advantage over the fastest xeons. this would be even more true under your suggested "real world" setting.

    i can't wait to see the itanic vs opteron comparison :)
  • Zuni - Friday, December 19, 2003 - link

    Thanks for the feedback, appreciate it. If you have further suggestions or applications you feel could be tested post them here.


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