InfoWorld review: Intel Xeon Nehalem-EX lives large

Intel's new Nehalem-EX CPU for SMP servers brings eight cores, massive memory support, mainframe-like RAS features, and huge performance gains to large-scale workloads

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I also ran the same suite of tests on a four-CPU AMD Opteron 8435 server. These six-core, 2.6GHz Istanbul CPUs have been out for the better part of a year now, and don't quite match up to the Nehalem-EX (due to slower RAM, 25 percent less L3 cache, and the lower speed of this version of HyperTransport vs. QPI). But they make a reasonable comparison for the Nehalem-EX in terms of real-world deployment.

These tests showed that the Nehalem-EX definitely benefits from the faster, 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM (vs. Istanbul's 800MHz DDR2), QPI, and the increased cache, as the X7560 bested the AMD Opteron 8435 in most tests, although not nearly as substantially as you might think. I ran the tests against a 24-core Istanbul system and again with an artificial constraint limiting the AMD box to only 16 physical cores. It's not a perfect comparison, considering there were still four CPUs in the AMD box, but it's reasonable.

The results: The full 24-core AMD Istanbul system held a performance edge at several concurrency levels against the X7560 with Hyper-Threading enabled. However, the Istanbul system lost ground when limited to only 16 cores, compared to the X7560 with or without Hyper-Threading enabled. In most cases, the margin was around 10 percent in favor of the X7560 over the AMD Opteron 8435, although it fluctuated somewhat throughout the concurrency levels. Both servers blew the doors off the X7350-based server, especially in the higher concurrency levels.

The moral of this story is that the Nehalem-EX scales out extremely well. However, AMD's new 12-core Magny Cours chip could make it a whole new ballgame.

LAME MP3 audio conversion tests, 64 to 192 concurrent processes (times in seconds)

Notes on the charts: The LAME tests convert a 152MB WAV file to MP3 at a 256Kbps bit rate. The MP4 to FLV tests transcode a 24MB MP4 file to FLV. Tests were run from ramdisk. The Intel X7560 Nehalem-EX system configured with 2 CPUs x 8 cores each, 2.26GHz clock rate, 12MB L3 cache, 6.5GT/s QPI, 1066MHz DDR3 RAM. The AMD 8435 Istanbul system configured with 4 CPUs x 6 cores each, 2.6GHz clock rate, 9MB L3 cache, 4.8GT/s HyperTransport, 800MHz DDR2 RAM. The same Istanbul system was also tested with 4 CPUs x 4 cores each.

MP4 to FLV transcoding tests, 64 to 192 concurrent processes (times in seconds)

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