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The HP Weigh-in on Opteron

Rarely do we see/hear public comparisons — stripped of marketing — of server technology at vendor conferences. Even more rare (I’m thinking ivory-billed woodpecker) do we see/hear a vendor say that one of its partners products is flat-out better than the other. But such was the case at HP Technology Forum 2005 when a program manager for HP ProLiant came clean on the performance and architecture differences of AMD Opteron vs. Intel Xeon processors. Here are excerpts from the IDG News article:

Opteron’s Hypertransport interconnects and integrated memory controller will allow it to maintain a slight advantage over Dempsey and a significant advantage over Tulsa, Cooper told a group of HP users and partners looking for more information on dual-core processors.

Even though Intel is increasing the speed of the links between the Dempsey and Tulsa processors and the rest of the system, Opteron’s connection to main memory runs at the clock speed of the processor, 2.4GHz in the case of the fastest Opteron chip, said Steve Cumings, group manager for ProLiant servers, during the briefing. This gives the single-core Opteron an advantage over the single-core Xeon, but in the dual-core world Opteron also benefits from another high-speed link that directly connects both cores on the chip, he said. The two cores on Intel’s dual-core processors have to send data outside the processor, and then back into the chip, in order to exchange information.

Dempsey, Intel’s dual-core Xeon for servers with two processors, should be very close in performance to Opteron, Cooper said. AMD’s advantage over Intel’s designs are more pronounced in servers with four processors, and the Opteron 800 series should have a clear advantage over Intel’s Tulsa processor early next year, he said.

From folks I talk to, the 4-way ProLiant DL585 has been a big success with enterprise customers. And we all realize that AMD built a better mousetrap with the 64bit Opteron. But to hear it from HP, who sits at the crossroads of so many tech vendors and typically takes a neutral position, is refreshing and certainly adds greater validity to the comments.