AMD announced new server processors on Monday based on the same Piledriver architecture used in the Trinity APUs and Vishera desktop CPUs we recently reviewed. With the release of the Opteron 6300 series, AMD is bringing Piledriver to the server room.
The new chips – similar to the desktop counterparts – bring several performance improvements over the previous generation 6200 series Opterons based on the Bulldozer architecture. AMD is positioning the chips as a upgrade path to existing servers and on merits of performance-per-dollar efficiency. As is AMD's fashion, the new chips are competitively priced and "good enough" performance-wise. With 6300, AMD has stated the goal is to reduce the TCO, or Total Cost of Ownership for servers used in data centers, supercomputers, and enterprises by being compatible with existing AMD server platforms with a BIOS upgrade and representing efficiency improvements over previous chips.
The Opteron 6300 series CPUs themselves build upon the Vishera desktop parts by adding more cores and more L3 cache. The server parts will have up to 16 cores clocked at 2.8GHz base and 3.2GHz turbo. They will have TDP ratings between 85W and 140W and will feature prices from $500 to $1,400. On the cache front, the chips have a 16KB L1 data cache per core, 64KB L1 instruction cache per module, 1MB L2 cache per core, and a shared 16MB cache per socket. AMD has included a quad channel memory controller that supports DDR3 up to 1866 MHz and 1.5TB per server in 4P configurations. AMD has rounded out the chips with four x16 HyperTransport 3.0 links rated at 6.4 GT/s per link. Up to 4 processors per server will be supported, which means a maximum of 64 cores.
With Piledriver, AMD added a number of new instructions including FMA3, BMI, and F16c. The company has also implemented server tweaks to the Bulldozer design to improve branch prediction, instructions per clock, scheduling, and reduced the power draw at higher clockspeeds allowing for the chps to clock higher while staying within the same power envelope of the Bulldozer-based Opteron 6200 series.
AMD is using the same socket as the 6200 series processors, and the new chips can be deployed as an upgrade to the old servers without needing a new motherboard.
When pitting the new Opteron 6380 to the previous-generation 6278, AMD is claiming a number of performance increases, including a 24-percent and 40-percent improvement in SPECjob2005 and SPECpower_ssj2008 respectively.
Further, the company is claiming competitive performance in server workloads with the Intel competition. AMD offers up benchmarks showing the Opteron 6380 and Xeon E5-2690 trading wins, with the AMD part being slower in the STREAM benchmark, but being slightly faster in LAMPS and NAMD. The allure of the Opteron, according to AMD is that the AMD part is almost half the price of the Intel processor, and is hoping the lower priced parts will encourage adoption. AMD argues that the money saved could easily go towards more RAM or more storage (or simply be saved of course).
The company has announced that its first major design win is Big Red II supercomputer at Indiana University. Built by Cray, the Big Red II will feature 21,000+ Opteron 6300-series CPU cores paired with NVIDIA GPUs. It represents a massive increase in computing power over IU’s previous Big Red supercomputer with 4,100 CPU cores, and will be used for medical, physics, chemistry, and climate research. Beyond that, AMD has stated more that 30 hardware vendors are slated to introduce servers based on the new Piledriver-based Opteron processors including HP, Dell, Cray, SGI, Supermicro, Sugon, and (of course) SeaMicro. On the software side of things, AMD is working with Microsoft, VMware, Xen, Red Hat, and Openstack. The company also stated that it is leaning on the experience and knowledge gained from the HSA Foundation to improve software support and guide the future direction of Opteron development.
The Opteron 6300 series is an interesting release that brings several improvements to the company’s server chip offerings. At launch, there are 10 processors to choose from, ranging from the quad core 6308 clocked at 3.5GHz for $501 to the top-end 6386 SE with 16 cores (2.8GHz base, 3.5GHz max turbo) and a $1,392 price tag. The 6366HE is an interesting part as well. It is the same price as the 12-core, 115W TDP Opteron 6348, but its has 16 lower-clocked cores and an 85W TDP. With the non-HE edition processors with 16 cores starting at $703, the 6366HE for $575 is a decent deal if you need multi-threading more than a fewer number of higher clocked cores.
Another bit that I found intriguing is that in a few years, AMD will (likely, if all goes according to plan) be offering processors for just about every type of server. They will have low cost, low power ARM Cortex-A57 based chips, Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) well suited to mixed workloads including GPU-accelerated tasks, and CPU-only chips with lots of traditional x86-64 cores. It seems that Intel will continue to hold the high end on pure performance, but AMD and its SeaMicro server division have not given up competing in the server room by a long shot.
The Piledrive architecture and Vishera desktop CPU review and The future of AMD: Vishera and Beyond at PC Perspective.