AMD EPYC 3201 Market Positioning
Thes chips are not released in a vacuum instead, they have competition on both the Intel and AMD sides. When you purchase a server and select a CPU, it is important to see the value of a platform versus its competitors.
AMD EPYC 3201 v. AMD Alternatives
When I first heard about the AMD EPYC 3201 specs, I admittedly did not understand why AMD omitted hyper-threading. After seeing this CPU in comparison to the AMD EPYC 3101 and the EPYC 3251, it makes sense. AMD ended up with four single-die SKUs that have surprisingly good segmentation.
We wish that we could find someone using dual-die AMD EPYC 3000 SKUs. It would be interesting to see how adding the second die plus adding the Infinity Fabric link between the two impacts performance and power consumption. The dual die parts are officially on my wishlist now for STH to review.
AMD has great segmentation between the AMD EPYC 3201 and the lower end of the 7000 series, the AMD EPYC 7251. Packaging requirements for the EPYC 7000 series are such that fitting them into embedded form factors is challenging. A 4x TDP differential also puts it in a different class.
For the other embedded part from the company that we recently tested, the AMD Opteron X3421 performance is much lower. We most commonly see this chip in the HPE MicroServer Gen10 which utilizes the X3421’s GPU capabilities to drive 4K displays. We think the non-GPU SoC that is focused on CPU performance in the AMD EPYC 3201 is sufficiently segmented enough to not impinge on that domain.
AMD EPYC 3201 v. Intel Alternatives
Comparing the AMD EPYC 3201 to its Intel counterparts is challenging. Intel has many lines available between the Intel Atom C3000 “Denverton”, Intel Xeon D-1500, Intel Xeon D-2100, Intel Xeon E-2100/ Core series, and the Xeon Scalable SKUs.
With so many lines, there is a lot of overlap. Overall, the AMD EPYC 3201 is faster core-for-core than the Intel Atom C3000 series. It falls somewhere between the Intel Xeon D-1500 and Xeon D-2100 series performance.
Compared to the Intel Xeon D-1500 series parts like the Intel Xeon D-1537 and Xeon D-1528, power consumption is similar but the performance of the AMD EPYC 3201 tends to be a bit better. Also, the AMD EPYC 3201 is a more modern SKU so it has more high-speed I/O lanes and internally a quad port AMD NIC. Vendors tend to prefer Intel NICs for ease of integration and support, but the four 10GbE ports are available to embedded systems vendors.
Compared to the Intel Xeon D-2100 series parts like the Intel Xeon D-2123IT, the AMD EPYC 3201 performs well. It has large caches which make up for the lower clock speeds. AMD also has a much lower TDP and the difference in power consumption is substantial, to say the least.
The Intel Xeon E-2100 series and Skylake-SP use more power so they are probably not the best competitors except if you have an edge form factor that is not power and size constrained. We think there is enough differentiation that although these are added to our charts, they are not really competitors.
AMD EPYC 3201 v. Arm Competition
This is coming. Intel and the rest of the industry know it is coming. Currently, the main issue that Arm competition faces is the fact that many of the products in this class are not fully SBSA compliant and do not install vanilla operating systems without at least some work whether from drivers or other areas. The AMD EPYC 3201 works well in this regard since the AMD EPYC 7000 series has trailblazed for the embedded parts.
We think this will change and will have more on this soon, however, if you want x86 at the edge, AMD has a strong differentiation point.
Refreshingly, the AMD EPYC 3201 does not try to do everything, nor does it attempt to exactly replicate and Intel SKU. AMD succeeded in making a differentiated part that offers a significant delta between it and the AMD EPYC 3251.
AMD has a great product in the embedded space. The impact of this cannot be understated. Part of the Intel Xeon D strategy has been matching the instruction sets of Intel’s mainstream server CPUs. Some part of that is premised on being able to migrate workloads from big iron in the data center out to the edge. Now AMD EPYC has that where one has an embedded option to match the Zen cores running in your desktop.
On the other hand, the embedded market is slow. If one thinks that the server market is slow, the embedded market is much more conservative. Many products in this segment are expected to last 7 years or more, much longer than the expected lifecycle of a data center product. Getting AMD EPYC 3000 out to the point that our readers can get a few boards to test is taking just over a year from its launch. That lag is much longer than the Intel side which makes sense, given that Intel has put such a focus on this market.
We are seeing companies like Packet launching microservers with Netronome SmartNICs and EPYC 3000 CPUs. Still, AMD needs more engagement with the EPYC 3000 series. We think the product has specs to be successful, but the company needs its first wave of channel products, along with the traditional embedded space, to be successful. Competition is good in this space and the AMD EPYC 3201 is different enough that customers will see different applications that the Intel Xeon D offerings do not currently cover well.