Choosing a Platform for a Workload
The first part of this article described in some detail how real-world benchmarks of servers can show very startling results for some real world workloads.
If you have been following the article, you will notice the comparison to the HP platform, which was based upon a hex-core Intel processor.
One of the major issues with the HP platforms was tied around excessive use of rack space. The HP ProLiant DL580 (a Compaq hold-over, from when Compaq was purchased by HP) was a very capable server, with 4 sockets, to hold the Intel Hex Core 7000 Series CPU's. For roughly the same price point, the SUN server will half the rack space and reduce the power & cooling requirements of the HP server.
A Better Intel Platform
If you are sold on the Intel Hex-Core for your application load, an excellent servers solution was recently released: SUN Fire X4450.
This short video, introduced an SMP server leveraging the Intel 7000 series Dual, Quad, and Hex-Core server.
A Better Intel Platform With Co-Existing SPARC Platforms
The SUN X4450 server brings Intel closer closer in line with the SUN SPARC Enterprise T5240 T2+ servers, providing the network management architect a closer choice when trying to find similar performance characteristics in a similar space requirement.
A very nice piece of knowledge, for the data center which stores on-site spares: Many of the hardware spares (drives, power supplies, fans, boards, etc.) are can be interchanged between Intel & SPARC units of this family, providing lower maintenance costs.
A better AMD Platform for When Data Centers Co-Exist with SPARC and Intel
A Better SPARC for Real World Applications With External Storage
SPARC platforms normally scale linearly, as you add cores. This means, an architect can accurately predict costs and performance by adding sockets, cores and threads to an application in the same chassis by adding hardware or partitioning with LDOM's or Solaris 10 Containers.
If disk space is not an issue and you are using external storage and you are looking for real-world compute power in a small space, SUN SPARC Enterprise T5440 T2+ servers provide ample throughput. A single SUN T5440 consumes 4U, in comparison to 4x SUN X4450 at 8U, and in comparison to to 4x HP DL580 at 16U. For highly threaded real-world applications, this server is very hard to beat.
Dealing With Odd Application Vendor Licensing on Intel
With the odd way application vendors choose to license on platforms (some with per-platform, others with per-socket, really whacked licensing per-core) - Hex Core and Octal Core may not be as beneficial, from a cost perspective. To demonstrate how to work through those issues with Intel based servers, sometimes the best way to deal with it is by purchasing less hardware.
The Intel platforms normally do not scale linearly when you add cores and servers to clusters of Intel platforms. A more highly integrated socket with more cores may not perform equally as well (per core) a socket with fewer cores. The price/performance ratio per core basically rises for applications when the price/performance ratio per core basically lowers for server hardware.
The greater amount of cache, on levels of cache closer to the processing units, will also increase single thread performance as well as throughput, due to decreased latency on cache hits.
Also, robust bios/firmware capable of partitioning does not exist on Intel/AMD platforms, meaning partitioning must be done through an additional hypervisor with an additional cost (both in dollars as well as in system call performance.) If a larger Intel/AMD platform with more cores is purchased, even though the cores run at a slower speed, increasing the Application cost per core, Application cost is further degraded once a typical Intel/AMD hypervisor is added.
These two issues significantly hinders the options for architects trying to build a long term solution which will scale while optimizing costs on Intel/AMD platforms.
To try to deal with this Intel problem, server vendors leave CPU's with fewer cores in their product lines, even though the hardware costs do not differ significantly. To illustrate this, a single server may have a miriad of confusing consumer options for x64 processors, such as the Intel 7000 series based SUN Fire X4450.
Vendor, Family, Sockets, Model, Cores, GHz, Bus MHz, Consumption, MB Cache/Processor
Intel, Xeon, 4, E7220, 2-Core, 2.93, 1066 FSB, 80W, 2x4 L2 *
Intel, Xeon, 2, E7320, 4-Core, 2.13, 1066 FSB, 80W, 2x2 L2
Intel, Xeon, 2, E7340, 4-Core, 2.40, 1066 FSB, 80W, 2x4 L2
Intel, Xeon, 2, X7350, 4-Core, 2.93, 1066 FSB, 130W, 2x4 L2
Intel, Xeon, 4, L7345, 4-Core, 1.86, 1066 FSB, 50W, 2x4 L2
Intel, Xeon, 4, E7340, 4-Core, 2.40, 1066 FSB, 80W, 2x4 L2
Intel, Xeon, 4, X7350, 4-Core, 2.93, 1066 FSB, 130 W, 8 L3 **
Intel, Xeon, 2, E7420, 4-Core, 2.13, 1066 FSB, 90W, 8 L3
Intel, Xeon, 2, X7460, 6-Core, 2.66, 1066 FSB, 130 W, 16 L3
Intel, Xeon, 4, E7450, 6-Core, 2.40, 1066 FSB, 90W, 12 L3
Intel, Xeon, 4, X7460, 6-Core, 2.66, 1066 FSB, 130 W, 16 L3 ***
* where multiple Intel cores are not necessarily needed greater than 8, the dual core E7220 will offer the greatest single threaded application performance and the best application license cost per core ratio, but the overall throughput of the server will be weak
** where multiple Intel cores are not necessarily needed greater than 16, the quad core X7350 will offer weaker single threaded application performance, a medium application license cost per core ratio, and reasonable overall throughput on this server
** where multiple Intel cores are not necessarily needed greater than 24, the hex core X7460 will offer among the weakest single threaded application performance, the worst application license cost per core ratio, but the highest overall throughput on this server