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AMD plots return to the data center with Epyc

Andy Patrizio | May 26, 2017
The chip-maker’s Naples platform has the speeds and feeds to beat Intel. Will it make a difference?


Naples offers an option

Matt Eastwood, research vice president with IDC, said there is indeed interest in a viable alternative to Intel. "Intel is controlling an ever increasing portion of the server bill of material as they work their way higher up the system stack. Server OEMs are all very interested in alternatives that allow them to change the conversation with customers and focus on price-performance at the workload level. A strong platform from AMD helps them do this while also offering x86 compatibility," he says.

"AMD has a chance but there will be some skepticism as they set out to prove that they can execute," Eastwood adds. "Many of the leading server OEMs, both here in the USA, and in China are very interested in bringing the technology to market. In my mind that was a much bigger hurdle than the end-users themselves."

At a demo to launch Epyc (then Naples), AMD showed off a benchmark of a dual-socket Epyc system against a dual Xeon E5-2699A V4 system performing a seismic analysis. First the company hamstrung the Epyc machine by limiting it to 44 cores and 1866MHz memory, the same specs as the Xeon. It completed the workload in 18 seconds, compared to Intel's 35 seconds. When the Epyc machine was unleashed using all 64 cores and memory at its maximum speed, Epyc finished the workload in 14 seconds.

The memory bandwidth of the Epyc platform is as much of a selling point as the CPU speeds, says Norrod. And with Epyc, AMD plans to target workloads that are memory bandwidth limited. "Memory bandwidth is as important as the CPU for a large set of workloads. The core is not twice as fast as the current core; it's just by marrying it with enough bandwidth we could keep the cores busy, whereas Broadwell choked," he says.

Eastwood says the targeted strategy is an ideal one for AMD. "AMD is focusing on next generation analytic workloads, which are expected to grow nicely as digitally transformed enterprises adopt comprehensive application and data strategies which extend from edge to core to cloud. Others such as IBM OpenPower are targeting some of the same workloads, but AMD is doing this with x86 resource that is compatible with Intel. This gives customers the freedom to move back to Intel-based platforms at a future date," he says.


Epyc ready for software-defined storage and networks

AMD thinks Epyc will be great at software defined storage because it will have the capability to unblocked channels to be peers and go all the way into caches and DRAM, and well-suited for software defined networks where input/output (I/O) is at a premium. He also sees it used in other areas with large memory sets, like scientific and technical applications, big data analytics and anything else that involves plowing through enormous pools of memory.


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