Thursday, September 27, 2007

AMD’s Quad-Core Chips Dominate SPECfp, But Intel Holds SPECint Firmly

Benchmark results of AMD’s quad-core server processors in CPU 2006 benchmark suite from Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. were recently published at Spec.org, confirming that AMD’s new microprocessors have overwhelming advantage in floating point performance, but cannot boast with unprecedented integer performance.

The new test results obtained on dual-processor machines contradict those posted by Advanced Micro Devices earlier this year, primarily because Intel released a new compiler that boosts performance of its chips quite tangibly. As a result, many advantages that AMD’s quad-core Opteron microprocessors might have earlier this year faded away and AMD is likely to find it rather hard to compete against Intel going forward.

According to test results available at Spec.org, quad-core AMD Opteron processor does not have any advantage over quad-core Intel Xeon processor when it comes to integer computations at the same clock-speed. Nevertheless, the new micro-architecture of AMD’s quad-core processors allows the chip to outperform Intel quad-core Xeon central processing units by 26% when it comes to floating point computations.

Even though AMD may feel itself comfortable about floating point performance, as a server with two Opteron 2350 (2.0GHz) chips outperforms a similar server with two Intel’s Xeon X5365 (3.0GHz) processors by 12% in CFP2006 Rates, the company should definitely worry about performance of its parts going forward in CINT2006 Rates.

Later this year Intel is on track to release its quad-core Intel Xeon processors made using 45nm process technology that feature up to 12MB of level-two cache as well as 1600MHz processor system bus. While the clock-speeds of the newcomers with 12MB of cache will generally remain on the current level and are expected to be in the range of 3.0GHz, there will also be two models with 6MB of cache that will operate at 3.33GHz and 3.40GHz. As a result, larger caches, higher bus speeds and operating frequencies will allow Intel to strengthen its positions.

AMD will also not sit still: it already promised to deliver quad-core AMD Opteron processors clocked at up to 2.50GHz in the fourth quarter of the year. Perhaps, that clock-speed will allow to maintain slight lead over Intel’s top-of-the-range offering in SPECfp_rate2006, however, there are hardly many chances that AMD manages to outperform Intel’s forthcoming chips in SPECint_rate2006.

Given that there will hardly be any clear winners in terms of performance, performance per watt or in terms of any other criteria, the competition between the two leading makers of x86 microprocessors will only heat up.

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