The answer was simple: "You cannot compare a truck with a sports car." The question? "What is point of the hex-core Xeon MP now that we have servers based on the Xeon 5500 series?" The excellent performance of the new Xeon DP platform has put Intel's own quad socket platform in an uneasy spot and the marketing people now have to resort to "fuzzy logic" to combat the feeling that the Xeon MP platform is obsolete since the end of March 2009. Comparing the dual socket Nehalem servers with sports cars and the heavy quad socket "Dunnington" systems with trucks might look like a decent analogy at first, but both the DP and MP platform are made for the same reason: do your processing work. There is nothing that prevents you from using a Xeon DP X5550 server instead of a Xeon 7460 one as a database backend: they can perform the same tasks. However, moving your furniture with a Lamborghini instead of a truck might prove to be quite a challenge.

Does it matter for you, the IT professional? Yes, and the reason is once again… virtualization. Choosing between a dual and quad socket server used to be simple: use the latter for the heavy backend applications, the former for everything else. But do you build your virtual infrastructure on top of quad socket or dual socket machines? The dual socket servers are much cheaper than the quads, you can easily get two and still save some money compared to buying a quad machine. However, two dual machines have four power supplies if you want redundancy, and when running 10 critical applications on a machine redundancy is something you cannot afford to ignore. Most quad socket machines are more redundant and reliable. Since the quad market is less ruled by price/performance and slower to evolve, manufacturers can afford to spend more time and money working on the reliability of their machines. One 2U quad machine will also have more expansion slots than two 1U dual socket machines.

Do you get a few quad socket machines or (slightly less than) twice as many dual socket servers? It is not as clear cut a decision as it used to be. This article will compare the power and performance of the current AMD and Intel quad and dual platforms, giving you some of the information you need to make a well informed decision. Please share your own experiences with the dual and quad socket question, we are eagerly awaiting them.

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  • Photubias - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    This is surely to be tested, but the Fiorano platform (as this AMD Chipset is called), is yet to be released.
  • solori - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    Fiorano (SR5690/SP5100, et al) are out now for Socket-F and really require an Istanbul to show their stuff (like IOV, etc). With a minor tweak on HT bus speeds, don't expect to see much improvement in memory bandwidth for Fiorano/Socket-F pairings. Where you should see improvement is in power consumption - pairing HE/EE Istanbul parts with Fiorano/Kroner should create a better performance/watt result in virtualization.

    Collin C. MacMillan">
  • bpdski - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    It is pretty amazing how fast the new 55xx chips are. Personally, I am holding out on any new server purchases and deployments until the EX systems come out next year. I am pretty excited about the performance potential of a dual or quad octal-core system. I feel for AMD, but if the EX systems scale as well as they should, they are really going to crush the Opterons.
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    2 answers to that, first off all looking at the design EX will be way more expensive creating a gap between 2 socket-4 socket platform even when only deploying 2 octa will be a very expensive baseline due to the motherboard layout. To expensive actually and a lot of focus trying to get risc/sparc marketshare.

    Second don't you think AMD knows this? The c32 G34 platform launch is much closer then people think, AMD made a clear roadmap and since 45nm all looks like going well on shape, keep in mind the cpu for the new platform is almost ready since it is based on istanbul and the new platform chipset was also released few weeks ago for the socket F platform, you will also see much more OEM activity with this platform due to one brand supplier, no longer need of the old nvidia/broadcom.

    EX was delayed-delayed-delayed if it continues like this it will be launched more or less at the same time, so keep the feeling. BTW even if the 55xx sereis would be again a bad performing server part (which it is finally not thank you intel) 75% of the market would be still buying it just for the brand name.....:)
  • cosminliteanu - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Many thanks for this article !
  • BrightCandle - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    A dual socket will easily fit in a 1U. But 1.25A is some serious extra cost within a colo.

    The 2U quad sockets on the other hand are a busting 500W+, again serious extra money in a colo.

    The Colo's want you using 0.5A per 1U, there is a major mismatch from these machines to the reality of the power you can actually get. Love the speed, not liking the cost of running them.
  • sonicdeth - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Thanks for this. Personally I can't recommend any of the quad socket systems until we see Intels Nehalem-EX early next year. The dual core 55xx series is just fantastic for the price (especially with VMware). We've deployed several HP 380G6's and couldn't be happier.
  • Bazili - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Great article. Congrats!!!

    Could you pleas include a software price analysis? I guess it can show huge differences among a 24 core box and a 8 core box.

  • tobrien - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    these are amazing articles, you guys do such an awesome job with these.

    thanks a ton!
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the kudos! much appreciated :-)

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