Server Update 2006
News from x86 land
x86-powered servers (EM64T and AMD64 based) are leading the
server race in terms of sheer numbers. Anil Patrick R takes a look at
what is happening on this front
If Network Magazines Server Update 2005 started
with RISC servers, 2006 seems to be the year of settling scores. This years
server watch-out will have to start with news of the x86 and x86-64 side of
On a rampage
and x86-64 servers have gained substantial market share in India since last
year. Proof of this comes from Network Magazines Infrastructure Strategies
2006 (IS 2006) survey results, which clearly show that out of 304 respondents,
68 percent already have investments in x86 servers (both x86 and x86-64); out
of these 304 CIOs, 21 percent plan to invest in x86 servers during 2006-2007.
This trend has been the result of a steady growth over 2005-06.
This feeling is echoed by Gartners India Server Revenue
survey for the third quarter of 2005, which showed a growth of 37.4 percent
over the third quarter of 2004. According to the survey, while there is a flat
revenue growth for the 1-way x86 servers in the APAC region, the 2-way and 4-way
server categories reported over 30 percent and 50 percent unit growth respectively
over same period last year. For more recent trend figures on server adoption
from Gartner Indias Naveen Mishra, take a look at the box, Gartner Indias
take on x86 for 2006.
IDCs Asia / Pacific Quarterly Enterprise Server Tracker,
Q4 2005, Feb 2006 release, also substantiates this trend. According to the tracker,
x86 server shipments grew by 42.2 percent during 2005. The table India server
market by chip type has more details from the tracker.
Annual growth (%)
Courtesy: IDC India
Given the performance benefits
that can be achieved on the x86 platform, organisations
are evaluating it seriously.
While the number of servers used might be higher when compared to RISC,
services can be offered for a lower cost
This year will see greater adoption on the x86 front due to
the value propositions that the platforms (32- and 64-bit) offer. Advances like
dual-core and virtualisation-supported CPUs will also be key drivers for the
Cost-per-user still remains the biggest advantage for x86.
Given the performance benefits that can be achieved on the x86 platform,
organisations now consider it as a serious option. While the number of servers
used might become higher when compared to RISC, service still becomes cheaper
for the organisation, says Mukund Ramaratnam, Director, Marketing &
Business Development, AMD India. One of the best examples of such utilisation
is the ring-back tone service that is offered by many telcos. This service has
become almost free today.
the value proposition side, the biggest driver in 2006 is likely to be x86-64,
namely, AMDs AMD64 and Intels EM64T-based CPUs. These processors
do away with the 32-bit CPU bottlenecks such as the maximum 4 GB memory limitations.
At present 64-bit processors have been adopted by many organisations, but the
typical applications run remain 32-bit. The lack of porting is one of the reasons
why many organisations are still wary of shifting from RISC to x86. However,
this scenario is bound to change as soon as organisations port more applications
on to x86 platforms.
Todays 64-bit processors are also less power-hungry than their predecessors.
Considering the fact that it is the processor which usually takes 60 percent
or more of the servers power consumption, this is indeed a welcome development.
AMD was leading on this front, but the race is heating up (or should it be cooling
down?) on this front with Intel offering their Xeon 5100 (Woodcrest) processor
As a strategy we are processor agnostic. Where we see the battle happening
is on the performance per watt front, and there is much R&D happening on
it, says Rajesh Dhar, Country Manager, ISS, HP India Sales.
When it comes to optimised servers for the data centre, performance along
with factors such as power and cooling are most important. We are addressing
this with our new 65 nm-based Intel Xeon 5100 series (Woodcrest). For example,
we are leading over AMD Opteron by 80-85 percent across various applications
on five benchmarks. These figures are for the 2-way 5100 series servers,
says Narendra Bhandari, Regional Manager, APAC, Strategic Relations and Internet
Solutions Group, Intel Asia Electronics.
Two is better
The trick when using multiple cores is to reduce clock
speeds and increase thread execution efficiency. This means that overall
processing performance and application stability increase when compared
to a single core CPU
Theres a range of dual core 64-bit CPU options from
AMD and Intel. With two cores per die, these processors offer performance and
efficiency levels significantly higher than their single core peers.
The basic feature of dual core CPUs is a dedicated execution
core each to simultaneously process two threads of a multi-threaded application.
This is the result of diminishing returns from increasing clock speeds. With
the use of two cores it is possible to avoid the clock speed race and bring
in better efficiency levels with greater stability.
The trick when using multiple cores is to reduce clock speeds and increase thread
execution efficiency. This means that overall processing performance and application
stability increase when compared to a single core CPU. Depending on the
application used, a dual core processor can provide as much as 40 percent of
a performance boost when compared to a single core CPU, informs Ramaratnam.
This is why we recommend that you go in for a dual core option
for fresh investments although single core options are still available.
Naveen Mishra, Senior Analyst, Server Markets,
Gartner India, gives his take on what to expect
in India on the x86 and x86-64 server front during
When it comes to the x86 and x86-64 server scenario,
we have observed that numbers were in excess of
$270 million during 2005 for India. This is quite
a significant number, and amounts to almost 60
percent of the overall Indian server market.
In terms of the shift from 32-bit to 64-bit
on the x86 front, we observed a rough ratio of
around 55 percent (32-bit) and 45 percent (64-bit).
It is an almost neck-to-neck competition as is
clearly visible. This is a very significant trend
which we see continuing during 2006 as well.
There will be much progression from 32- to 64-bit
processing during 2006 across verticals and usage.
The shift to 64-bit computing is driven by x86-64's
inherent value propositions. Advantages such as
more users per server provide a strong value proposition
to organisations going in for x86-64 adoption.
Today it can be clearly observed that many organisations
are going in for 64-bit computing, but still run
32-bit applications on the new platform. This
is bound to change soon. While 32-bit applications
run on the 64-bit CPU as of now, further adoption
of 64-bit operating systems and applications will
take place during 2006.
Such transitions are not necessarily costly.
In most cases, all that needs to be done is to
change the legacy environment to a 64-bit environment.
Going 64-bit eliminates problems such as memory
limitations which are common with 32-bit environments.
Not necessarily equal
Both AMD and Intel have dual core architectures. While the new range of Intel
Xeon 5100s are 65 nm technology-based, the AMD Opterons are 90 nm technology-based.
The older Xeon 7000 series is still 90 nm-based.
A major difference (apart from fabrication) between the two CPU vendors is in
the use of memory controllers on the CPU. While the Opterons use memory controllers
built on the CPU itself, all the Xeons use memory controllers on the North Bridge
(outside the CPU).
Next comes the performance per watt debate and thermal envelope
claims. While AMD argues that maximum power values are
seldom reached while running normal workloads. Intel
is emphasising the Thermal Design Point (TDP). Going
by this rating, the Xeon 5100s have a much lower TDP
rating of 65 watts (except for the 3 GHz version with
a TDP of 80 watts) when compared to the Opterons.
Vendor & Processor type
Clock speed range
|AMD (90 nm, Opteron dual-core, 1-way)
||165, 170, 175, 180 and 185
||1.8 GHz to 2.6 GHz
|AMD (90 nm, Opteron dual-core, up to
||265, 270, 275, 280 and 285
||1.8 GHz to 2.6 GHz
|AMD (90 nm, Opteron dual-core,
up to 8-way)
||865, 870, 875, 880 and 885
||1.8 GHz to 2.6 GHz
|AMD low-power (90 nm, Opteron
dual-core, 1-way, up to 2-way, up to 8-way)
||Same as above, but with the
||1.8 GHz to 2.6 GHz
|Intel (90 nm, Xeon 7000 MP series)
||7020 MP, 7030 MP, 7040 MP and 7041 MP
||2.66 GHz to 3 GHz.
|Intel (65 nm, Xeon 5000 DP series)
||5030 DP, 5050 DP, 5060 DP, 5063 DP, and
||2.67 GHz to 3.73 GHz
|Intel (65 nm, Xeon 5100 DP series)
||5110 DP, 5120 DP, 5130 DP, 5140 DP, 5150
DP and 5160 DP
||1.6 GHz to 3 GHz
Beyond vendor benchmarks
is why there is tremendous debate going on about the merits and demerits of
each processor, with benchmarks flying back and forth. With each party claiming
units different from the other, the scene is just absolute chaos. Besides, it
is still too early at this point to predict how the new Xeon 5100s will fare.
For this reason we would advise you to perform evaluations based on your organisations
application-specific needs rather than just going by benchmarks which have very
little in common.
This year will see tremendous competition on the x86 front. With both AMD and
Intel planning more product launches during the year, it promises to be an exciting
year for the server buyer.
To start with, AMD is expected to launch a 65 nm Opteron
later this year. With competition from Intel Xeon 5100s, AMD is not going to
be watching from the sidelines. Intel is also not planning to just bank on just
the present launches. It has big plans for the dual-core platform. By
the end of 2006, over 70 percent of our volumes across processor verticals will
be from the dual core platform. On the server side it will be much higher,
Its clear from all this that dual core server platforms are the bare minimum