AMD Barcelona vs. Intel Nehalem

22 May

We are looking at switching some of our servers from AMD Opteron Barcelona quad-core processors to the new Intel 5520 Nehalem processors. These are both 4 core CPUs, but the Intels utilize hyper-threading, so the OS sees 8 cores per CPU.  It wasn’t that long ago that the first thing you did with a hyper-threading-enabled CPU was switch it off in the BIOS, but I have heard good things about Intel’s reincarnation of hyper-threading, so I decided to give it a shot.  

I ran some real-world stress tests against these servers, adding them into the WordPress.com web pool and seeing how many requests per second they could serve before becoming 100% CPU bound effectively falling over. The types of requests served are varied; a lot are rendering web pages, but there are also quite a few image resizing operations thrown in here as well, as we spread this image work evenly over the 2500 cores in our web tier.  Everything is php executed via fastcgi.  I was a bit skeptical that there would be much of a difference between the two processors, but the numbers proved me wrong — the Nehalem’s are impressive.

2 x AMD Opteron 2356 Barcelona Quad-core 2.3Ghz
40 requests/second at 87.5% CPU utilization

2 x Intel 5520 Nehalem Quad-core 2.26Ghz
78 requests/second at 94% CPU utilization

Few things that I thought were interesting:

  • On a per request basis, there isn’t much of a difference between the two. They both generate a given page in roughly the same amount of time.
  • As CPU utilization approaches 100%, The Intel’s scale rather linearly, while the AMDs seem to struggle over the 85% range.
  • The load averages were pretty high during these tests (35+ on the Intel box), but request times didn’t seem to suffer.

Has anyone else seen the same sort of results or maybe something to the contrary?   These 2 configurations are roughly the same price, making it seem like a no-brainer to choose the Intels for web applications.

5 Responses to “AMD Barcelona vs. Intel Nehalem”

  1. YOU KNOW May 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    Finally a proc that delivers teh goods.

  2. jim October 5, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    How did you decide on the 5520? At least right now, it looks like there is no price/GHz advantage as you go up in clock speed. Do you think it would make sense to E5506 instead?

    Thanks for posting your results, it’s encouraging.

    Jim

    • Barry December 17, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

      Hi Jim!

      Sorry for the delayed comment. The 5506 doesn’t have the features that make the Nehalem’s awesome like HyperThreading. We have some deployed and their performance is much closer to the 2356s than the 5520s. Here is the comparison

  3. cris June 8, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    Intel 5520 Nehalem Quad-core 2.26Ghz FTW😉

  4. Indium-Blog August 7, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    be updated about indium…

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