The clock has "ticked" and Intel has released a refresh to the quad-core Xeon line-up, code-named Harpertown. AMD has also finally released their quad-core Opteron, code-named Barcelona. Intel is on what they like to call a tick-tock release cycle of processors. Every "tick" is a refresh of the current architecture, and a "tock" represents a new architecture. AMD doesn't seem to be on any pattern of release cycles, and the Barcelona launch is a bit late and not as well organized as some of their previous product launches.

Harpertown will launch with clock speeds all the way up to 3.16GHz, and will also ship two low voltage parts (2.3GHz and 2.6GHz). The rumor mill speculates that Intel may be able to reach 3.4GHz with the new 45nm process shrink. Barcelona on the other hand is launching at 2.0GHz with speeds down to 1.7GHz. There will be three low voltage Barcelona parts at launch: 1.7GHz, 1.8GHz and 1.9GHz. Frankly, it's more than a bit disappointing that AMD wasn't able to launch at higher clock-speeds; however, they are planning to have higher-clocked parts towards year-end that will only require a few more watts to run.

For quite some time now Intel has been living the high-life in the quad-core arena, even though both AMD and the media criticized them for gluing two dual-core processors together to create their quad-core product line. AMD has lost market share to Intel over the past couple of years, mostly due to the success Intel has had with their current Core architecture. One does wonder if AMD might have sat too long on the Opteron before making head-way into a new design or moving along a bit quicker to quad-core; yes, there was work happening, including an aborted architecture, but when you're fighting the reigning heavyweight such mistakes can be costly. Obviously, AMD has had a rough year with respect to their finances, but hopefully they are on the mend and Barcelona is the beginning of an upswing.

We've already looked at Barcelona in several previous articles, but Harpertown is the new kid on the block this week. That being the case, we'll start with a closer look at Intel's latest addition to their lineup.

What's new with the Harpertown Xeon
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  • Final Hamlet - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    I don't wanna argue with you over AMD vs. Intel, because you know: Doing so on the Internet is like running in the Special Olympics - even if you win, you are still retarded...

    Nevertheless, you can't even calculate.
    If 2.0 GHz is the basis and you lift it to 2.5 GHz, it is NOT a 20% improvement, but RATHER 25%. Learn calculating percentages, it helps man, it helps...
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Dude, you just don't have a clue....
  • Accord99 - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Barcelona only kills on $/performance because it's being compared to the higher-end Intel SKUs . There are much cheaper 2.33GHz Clovertowns and comparable Harpertowns. Meanwhile Harpertown pretty much guarantees Intel performance superiority for the forseeable future.
  • Justin Case - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Beyond a certain price difference, it's cheaper to buy two systems than to buy a faster system. Most (granted, not all) software that can run efficiently on multi-core CPUs can also run efficiently on multiple nodes. A single, more expensive system can still be preferable if you have space constraints, of course, but I suspect Intel will lower its prices a bit as a response to Barcelona.

    Personally I would like to see a comparison between two systems with a similar price.
  • Accord99 - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Most (granted, not all) software that can run efficiently on multi-core CPUs can also run efficiently on multiple nodes.
    I wouldn't say most, more like a few. Plus, a lot of expensive software are licensed by the socket, so any savings on the CPU is minor compared to the overall costs of software.

    Two systems also take up more space and consume more power, and the trend of virtualization also leads to fewer, bigger servers.

  • Justin Case - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Just out of curiosity, what software are you thinking about that scales well to multiple cores but cannot run on multiple nodes?

    Rendering can be done in render farms, most servers can run in multi-node load-balancing configrations, etc.. The only field that comes to mind where multiple nodes really aren't doable is scientific / HPC, which needs very fast access to a shared memory pool. But the days of glory of the monolithic supercomputer are kind of past.
  • chucky2 - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    At work (extremely large telecomm company) we don't run each box more than 50% load for failover reasons. So when I'm looking at these numbers, to me it seems like AMD is doing pretty good with 2.0GHz CPU's vs. 3.0GHz Intel CPU's.

    I'd really like to see how the scaling goes with Barcelona from say 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0GHz.

    I think at 2.5-2.7GHz is when we're really going to see Barcelona start to come into its own...

  • Justin Case - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    I think this shows the same trend from the previous generation, in terms of performance per watt: AMD rules for servers (low / medium CPU loads), Intel rules for workstations and render nodes (high CPU loads).

    And both are complete overkill for desktop systems, but I'm sure Microsoft will find a way to make Windows crawl on them. :)

    HPC / FEA / etc. is also high CPU load but it also needs low memory latency and high bandwidth (where AMD has an advantage), so these benchmarks don't really tell us much. My guess is Intel will have a small advantage (despite the slower memory access), at least until Barcelona hits 2.5 GHz or so.
  • firewolfsm - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    This review seems biased. If you want to run only the 2GHz part at least calculate the performance per clock because it looks like Barcelona has Intel beat in a lot of the benchmarks. Meaning 2.5GHz would be much more competitive. and you also should have run the 3.2 GHz K8.
  • Jason Clark - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    As for 3.2GHz, our reasoning was it was a high wattage part, and it didn't make sense to include it. At the wattage it runs at, perf/watt was not pretty.

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