AMD has long been the underdog in markets it competes in, and its fans have been waiting for it to unequivocally retake the performance crown from Intel. It’s held it before with the launch of the Athlon processor way back in my high school days. AMD has often been competitive through a price/performance lens, particularly for graphics cards, but their products often come with a caveat: power usage is higher than the competition, lower performance under specific workloads, etc. Well, it appears the AMD fans finally got what they wanted. Introducing the new EPYC 2, code named “Rome” server platform.
Back in the summer of 2017 AMD announced its original EPYC Server processors. Built around the original Zen cores, AMD brought some pressure on Intel due to competitive performance and lower costs in an extremely profitable market that Intel has long dominated. The new EPYC 2 processors look to continue that pressure.
Introducing almost 20 new models, AMD has covered the bases from the EPYC 7251 8 core/16 thread CPU all the way up to an EPYC 7742 64 core/128 thread CPU rocking 256MB of L3 cache, 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0 (256 GB/s in both directions), and an 8 channel DDR4 memory setup. Built on an evolution of AMD’s chiplet process, these have a separate I/O chip, which AMD says has decreased latency. These are also the first x86 chips built on 7nm technology, though not the entire processor is 7nm, as can be seen below. AMD makes some strong claims about this new 7nm process too, claiming double the core density. Apparently these new bad-boys get 4x the Floating-Point of the first generation EPYC chips as well. There is also a new security chip which is used to ” help defend against certain side-channel attacks, encrypt main memory and virtual machine memory, and cryptographically help secure the boot process.” I look forward to those in the security industry testing out the effectiveness of this new approach.
Claiming potentially 90% higher integer performance and up to 79% better floating point performance than a Xeon Platinum 8280 and a #1 position in benchmarks, AMD is planting some clear flags here. AMD says these new chips do all their magic using as little as half the power consumption of the previous generation EPYC chips. Not content to be simply a discount supplier, it’s clearly pushing to significantly shake up the market entirely, and since Intel gets almost half of its revenue from servers, it’s not surprising AMD covets its position.
AMD has not artificially segmented these products off either. Every Rome cpu will support the same 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes, the same infinity fabric speeds, up to 4 TB per socket, and identical security and virtualization features. Anandtech points out that the 7502 is a particularly excellent deal. With 32/64 cores, a frequency max of 3.35GHz, 128MB cache, and a 200w TDP, the $2600 price of the EPYC 7502 seems like a steal, especially when compared to the Xeon Platinum 8253, a 16 core 3.0GHz competitor which rings in at $3115. The pricing bloodbath continues across the board, with Intel charging almost twice as much for roughly half as many cores as competing AMD chips. Never mind that AMD supports 4TB for free and Intel has zero support for PCIe 4.0 currently.
Get to the reviews!
Anandtech concludes that “AMD offers you up to 50 to 100% higher performance while offering a 40% lower price” and it states that in their testing AMD has beaten Intel by such a huge margin there is potentially “no contest.” It finishes with a recommendation and call AMD’s new technology “stellar.”
Hexus.net concludes that AMD has set a new performance record and that Intel is “far in the rear view mirror for heavily threaded applications.” It also doubts that Intel will be able to respond in the near future, especially once total cost is factored in. The writer does acknowledge the server market is a complicated one and Intel has been nurturing relationships for a long time. That being said, Hexus has said that the industry support for EPYC 2 vastly outstrips the launch of EPYC 1. How this plays out remains to be seen, but it’s a solid win for AMD. Hexus gives the new platform their stamp of approval.
Phoronix’s Michael Larabel did what he does best and published Linux benchmarks. He calls the EPYC 7742 “nothing short of remarkable.” There are some excellent graphs here which show AMD winning literally every single performance-per-dollar benchmark he ran, and often by significant margins. AMD also takes the top 3 spots for the geometric mean of all tests. He concludes that Rome’s performance-per-watt is either comparable or vastly better than Intel’s. It’s a clear victory for AMD over at Phoronix, and he throws out the adjectives “phenomenal” and “fantastic.” Phoronix will be doing addition testing, but Michael seems quite impressed so far.
There does seem to be a consensus around these new chips and it’s that they’re purportedly excellent. What’s perhaps most striking to this writer is the 225w TDP on the 64 core 7742 running up to 3.4GHz. That’s a heck of a lot of computing performance, and when I remember back to my Pentium D 830 with it’s 130w TDP I am blown away at the progress made. Intel has a huge advantage in market share and relationships, but they are absolutely feeling some heat here. When AMD ran a public demonstration this summer of EPYC 2 Intel was quick to redo the test and complain about AMD’s methods (though Intel’s own results still showed it losing, just by less), and it’ll be interesting to see whether they make any public statements about these new chips or choose to just hunker down and come up with an improved product to answer AMD’s. Regardless of future products, right now it appears that for a great many companies AMD has become a heck of a lot more compelling. Apparently the glue works.