Shortcuts

Comprehensive Testing Illustrates AMD's Strengths, Weaknesses In Servers

rated by 0 users
This post has 4 Replies | 2 Followers

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 26,724
Points 1,209,025
Joined: Sep 2007
ForumsAdministrator
News Posted: Fri, Feb 10 2012 12:58 PM
AMD's Financial Analyst Day last week made it clear that while the company is primarily focused on consumer products and SoC design, it still wants to be a player in the server market. The various presentations were a bit unclear as to how AMD thought it would make that happen -- there was plenty of mention of "the cloud", but few details on how AMD could position its Bulldozer / Interlagos architecture to make a play in this space.

Extensive testing over at Anandtech has shed some light on the situation. The new article is a follow-up to the original story; combined, they offer a panoramic view of Sunnyvale's position in a wide range of HPC, virtualization, rendering, SQL, and SAP benchmarks. Testing at multiple load levels and measuring power consumption at each indicates that AMD has a competitive value proposition in certain workloads -- but it also exposes some of the chip's weaknesses.



AMD's decision to compete with Intel by adding more cores may have worked at first, but the company clearly overreached. One of the problems Interlagos has in certain workloads is that the chip spends a great deal of time in spin waits, meaning that threads are waiting on other threads to finish data accesses. Data contention increases as core counts rise; it's one of the fundamental problems that prevents multi-core designs from scaling effectively in the real world. With as many as 32 threads running on a 16 module Interlagos chip, spin waits kill Interlagos' performance in MySQL OLAP.

As an aside, Intel announced new extensions being added to Haswell this week that are meant to reduce the amount of time a chip spends in spin lock / spin waits by offering programmers a new memory model that can improve multi-core efficiency. The new extensions, dubbed TSX, will be backwards-compatible with existing approaches and debut with the launch of that processor in 2014.



For a benchmark-by-benchmark breakdown, we suggest you read the full articles, but there are some tests, like SAP, where Interlagos does well. The chip's HPC performance is also quite good. The tests also confirm something we'd previously suspected -- AMD's chip multi-threading (CMT) approach is executed well and scales effectively in server workloads where thread contention doesn't cripple overall performance. Bulldozer's problems are related more to the inherent lack of scaling in consumer applications and the speed of its caches.

Focusing on these workloads should help AMD claw back some market share, but Piledriver's performance will still be critical to any long-term growth. We continue to suspect that faster caches would go a long way to improving Interlagos' performance -- if AMD can deliver them, the chip may be able to compete effectively against the next round of Xeons, including the E5 series.
  • | Post Points: 65
Top 10 Contributor
Posts 8,765
Points 105,070
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
MembershipAdministrator
Moderator
realneil replied on Fri, Feb 10 2012 2:00 PM

It will be a good thing if they can pull this 'Rabbit' out of their hats.

As always,.....I wish for their success, if only for the sake of real competition keeping prices a little lower.

Dogs are great judges of character, and if your dog doesn't like somebody being around, you shouldn't trust them.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 150 Contributor
Posts 495
Points 4,825
Joined: Jan 2012
Location: Brighton, MA

the ideas are already there, they just need to put it on those chips :) what are they waiting for? umm i don't know

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 150 Contributor
Posts 656
Points 5,955
Joined: May 2008
Location: Stockholm
mhenriday replied on Sat, Feb 11 2012 5:44 AM

I'm with realneil here ; for the sake of competition, I sincerely hope that AMD succeeds in its endeavours. But the impression I get is that AMD has given up competition in the high end and instead is concentrating its efforts in the low end and middle of the spectrum. What this means for Bulldozer successor Piledriver we shall have to wait and see....

Henri

Top 500 Contributor
Posts 207
Points 1,515
Joined: Feb 2011
pwrntspd replied on Sat, Feb 11 2012 3:24 PM

Good luck to AMD.I get the feeling they are putting more focus on improving the bulldozer module since the have removed the 10 and 20 core processors from the road map (at least the piledriver based ones). Hopefully "late" piledriver will exhibit some of these improvements.

  • | Post Points: 5
Page 1 of 1 (5 items) | RSS