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I'm specing out a database server, and the price works out to be reasonably close between an Intel X5550 Quad-core and an AMD 2425HE (2.1Ghz) Six-core Opteron.

I've been looking for some comparisons between the two, but the only thing useful I've found is an AnandTech Review of the 2435 which compares it to Intel Xeons, but concludes they both have their place.

My load is MS SQL Server 2008, with an OLTP database that has about an equal amount of reading/writing (and it's a reasonably heavy load).

So my question is, what is going to work better in this situation, assuming the drives are the same:

  • Xeon X5550, with 16GB 1333Mhz RAM (Dell R510)
  • or an Opteron 2425HE (2.1Ghz) or 2439SE (2.8Ghz) with 16GB of 800Mhz RAM? (Dell 2970)
    • Note: the 2439 adds $500, but the overall pricing works out that it's not that much more than the R510. Using the 2425HE, the Dell 2970 server is slightly less than the similarly-equipped R510). If it adds a decent amount of performance, it's worthwhile to go faster.

(single CPU, in both cases).

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closed as not constructive by Chris S Jan 20 '13 at 14:25

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5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If its an OLTP server, and you are actually worried that it's going to CPU bottleneck maybe the app's really not an OLTP app. The way I spec out an OLTP server (in general) is:

  1. get a budget, if the answer is tell me how much it's going to cost, I usually say it'll cost every dime you give me, and we can always spend more- so how much are you going to give me.

  2. load test the app in dev to see how many iops /trans. Buy the expected # of IOPS +10% (20 if you thin you can afford it) - spend no more than 60% of the budget here. If you are on a san, you should still get a set of raid 1+0 disks for tempdb and potentially the transaction logs

  3. during the load test examine memory usage, if you can keep adding memory until paging stops then add 15% more- only add more ram after you've priced the cpu, if you can buy more than what's required great- if not you'll know where to spend if you top out.

  4. finally look at cpu time, the more threads the better with the best bang for the buck with what you have leftover after buy the drives and the base ram (this means you'll be looking at teh 55XX and 75XX from intel). The actual CPU speed is fairly irrelevant since sql server is a multi-threaded app (and it's unlikely that you topped out the CPU during load testing. It's likely you'll be able to get away with a single socket, but the machine you should buy would be able to expand to at least 2.

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I'd give you +10 if I could - it's answers like this that make ServerFault worthwhile. –  Helvick Mar 12 '10 at 11:53

As the others have said, you HAVE to go with the 55xx-series - we saw a seven-fold increase in overall Oracle 10g performance on our HP blades between the 54xx-series and 55xx-series - just the memory performance alone justifies their use. If it's performance per dollar or watt then AMD can be competitive but on pure performance Intel are way ahead of the game - and you should see how the forthcoming 75xx-series perform!

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Database performance is very rarely CPU bottlenecked. It is almost always disk i/o bottlenecked, and after that memory/cache bottlenecked, and after that network i/o bottlenecked. If you had a CPU bottlenecked database you'd probably know it already because you'd have been special in several ways to get here.

What I'm saying is, doesn't matter. What does matter is that you didn't even mention your disk subsystem in your post, which means you're coming at this backwards. Get whichever cpu is cheaper and focus on your disk and memory needs.

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Fully in agreement. That is like discussing what color is most important on a car to go faster and ignoring the real issues. OLTO - as the poster says he had - is petty much ALWAYS limited by IO subsystem. Maxing out the CPU would require hugh disc subarrays, which both servers dont handle (hint: supermicro, 2 rack units, 24 discs - perfect for a database server). –  TomTom Mar 12 '10 at 5:56
    
You're right, and I agree -- but I did the disk part first. Disks are 15K RPM SAS, RAID10 for data, and separate dedicated drives for system, swap, and tempdb. This question I was trying to concentrate very specifically on what CPU would be better, assuming all else is equal and optimized. It's a tough enough question as it is, it would be many magnitudes harder if I were also asking for advice on disk, server config, etc.. –  gregmac Mar 12 '10 at 23:03

I'd probably go with the X5550, since it will give you a total of 8 threads, versus 6. You're using only one processor, so the X5550 might not be the most efficient processor choice; if you can, try to grab up an X3460.

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SQL Server claims increased performance with Hyperthreading, just as long as you're careful if you decide to assign affinity to the processes. If you leave it as a free-for-all then I agree, go the maximum number of threads –  Mark Henderson Mar 11 '10 at 23:27

As an AMD Opteron fan boy, I'd have to say you should go with the Intel Xeon for SQL Server OLAP type duties. Istanbul 2425HE is an awesome 6-core processor and the energy savings are phenomenal in comparison to Intel's X5550 but OLAP is processor, I/O intensive activity. I'd have to say the Intel Xeon would be the better bet in terms of database/OLAP performance.

The 2425HE has 6-cores vs. the Xeon's 4-cores w/hyperthreading, the big issue/caveat is hyperthreading and OLAP. I'd argue that 6-cores is better than 4 since hyperthreading performance can be highly unpredictable in certain situations, but I believe for Xeons and OLAP, hyperthreading is just fine, according to Anandtech (link).

If this was for a file/email/web/AD/etc. server, I'd have to say the Opteron is better buy in terms of price/performance ratio (and energy), but your case clearly calls for as much muscle with no regard to energy savings. No one likes waiting for ETL/OLAP type operations, reports n' stuff.

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As bad as I feel saying this, I'm really not concerned about energy in this application. It's a server going in a datacenter, I don't really have to think about it beyond that. –  gregmac Mar 11 '10 at 23:50
    
That's fine. I usually prefer the Operton route for energy savings, but to each his/her own. –  osij2is Mar 11 '10 at 23:53

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