AMD EPYC 7002 Market Impact
In our individual SKU reviews, we now include a market impact section. Processors are not released in a vacuum. Instead, they are released into an increasingly competitive market. Those buying systems need to navigate which solutions to pursue for this and future generations in the context of their own IT infrastructure. We think it is most appropriate to delve into the market impact on a SKU-to-SKU basis because price and performance at different levels are a major story. At the same time, for a release like this, we wanted to go into some of the competitive positionings.
AMD EPYC 7002 v. Intel Xeon Market Impact
This is the big one. In our benchmarks, we have shown that AMD EPYC 7002 has more memory capacity (on standard SKUs), more general-purpose integer and floating-point performance, and more memory bandwidth per socket. We also showed that at a platform level, the AMD EPYC 7002 series has PCIe Gen4 and more PCIe lanes making it a more scalable solution than the Intel Xeon Scalable processors.
The other impact here is that AMD’s execution is strong. Delivering 2x more cores, 2x the cache, more memory bandwidth, and 2x more PCIe bandwidth in the same socket on a 2-year cadence is excellent for the x86 market.
If you are installing a new VMware ESXi cluster, you can get an AMD EPYC 7002 series CPU, like an AMD EPYC 7702P, and consolidate legacy servers at no worse than 2:1 ratios but in some cases 6:1 socket consolidation ratios even over early 2017 generation parts.
Likewise, if you are embarking on NVMe over Fabric using an x86 server as a building block, then the AMD EPYC 7002 series is now the processor to beat.
There are a few specific cases where Intel has features that AMD simply lacks at this point. Intel is still the option to get if you need:
- Extreme per-core license optimization SKUs
- Configurable core count SKUs
- Low power 1-3 node deployments
- Intel’s VNNI instructions or DL Boost
- AVX-512 today
- Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory
- An Intel CPU full stop
At the same time, if you look at Intel Optane DCPMM or DL Boost as “great features, we will use it in 2-3 years when it is better supported” then the Intel Xeon value proposition becomes harder to handle.
If your per-core license costs are a few hundred dollars per core, then there is a good chance that the AMD EPYC 7002 series will still come in ahead on a TCO basis once power, cooling, rack space, and system costs are included. If you are paying tens of thousands per core, Intel Xeon still has great offerings.
Likewise, if you have a 150-200W at the wall power budget per machine and need a small number of machines, the Intel Xeon Silver line is great. AMD’s offerings essentially assume one can run bigger nodes for their workloads.
If you have general-purpose virtualization or Kubernetes clusters, for example, AMD EYPC 7002 has offerings that are simply a better fit.
Intel is a company with a long heritage and great engineering talent. As the 10nm Ice Lake generation lands and future generations and solutions arrive from Intel, AMD will feel the pressure again. Until then, Intel can discount its CPUs and hope organizations do not want to make a PCIe Gen4 transition soon.
AMD EPYC 7002 v. Intel Xeon Platinum 9200 Market Impact
We wanted to call out the Intel Xeon Platinum 9200 series specifically here. Intel has a 56 core/ 112 thread chip that is designed for dense HPC clusters instead of mainstream server applications. You can read more about this in Why the Intel Xeon Platinum 9200 Series Lacks Mainstream Support. Key reasons are the fact that only Intel makes the systems these chips use and there were major trade-offs Intel made to make this AMD EPYC 7002 competitor. Remember, Intel announced Cascade Lake-AP just about the same time AMD confirmed 64 cores.
The Intel Xeon Platinum 9282 is designed to have more bandwidth per socket since it is a 2P Xeon system in a single socket. At the same time, one cannot have features like Intel Optane DCPMM support and two DIMM per channel support. From a memory capacity standpoint, standard Intel Xeon Scalable parts in four-socket configurations are better, albeit packaged less densely.
Intel may have the memory bandwidth and AVX-512 crown here. For most workloads, if you recall our testing, and AMD EPYC 7742 in dual-socket configuration will deliver similar performance in half the power consumption (or less) outside of those specific use cases. Once you venture out from memory bandwidth and AVX-512 performance and need to look at things like facilities that can support CPUs in 2U 4-node configurations, AMD becomes the obvious choice, and at a fraction of the list price cost.
If alternatively, you are anti-green and power-saving initiatives in your organization, using high-power Intel Xeon Platinum 9282 will help achieve your goals. Intel is adding bfloat16 support and claims lower power in the next-generation Cooper Lake parts for this segment.
AMD EPYC 7002 v. Arm Market Impact
The AMD EPYC 7002 launch is relatively devastating for the Arm market. Intel is quick to point out live migration challenges between Xeon and EPYC. Between architectures, one can still do a fast shutdown VM/ restart on another node migration in an automated manner, usually in a handful of seconds. An organization can realistically build an AMD EPYC 7002 cluster and migrate any clusters from the first generation Intel Xeon Scalable designs that were still current as of two quarters ago without much thought. Moving to Arm would likely entail additional work.
For AMD as an alternative to Intel, IT organizations can do a low effort and low-risk migration. That is something Arm cannot offer. Also, Arm chips in the market that competed on price/ performance with the first generation of Intel Xeon Scalable are not as attractive compared to an x86 line that is running at around 25% the dollar per performance unit of Intel Xeon’s second generation.
Next-Gen Arm Neoverse N1 and E1 Cores will change this, but AMD’s aggressive PCIe Gen4 and core count push will limit the advantage these future designs have in the market.
On the other hand, Arm has one major ecosystem that AMD cannot readily touch: the IoT and edge development. Every company that needs an IoT strategy likely has, or is starting to build, an Arm CI/ CD pipeline. For those pipelines, buying Arm servers makes a lot of sense.
AMD EPYC 7002 Power 9 Market Impact
For the IBM Power play, this is an interesting launch. Power has innovated on architecture and held leads with features like PCIe Gen4 before x86 got it. Now, AMD has PCIe Gen4 and a lot of lanes.
For traditional IBM Power markets, we do not see AMD EPYC 7002 as an imminent threat. On the other hand, for the scale-out ambitions of Power, the AMD EPYC 7002 is set to make life difficult. Whereas three years ago Power was the high-performance Intel Xeon alternative, AMD is now in that position with an x86 chip.
We wanted to start with the high-level view of the SKU stack, and AMD’s planned transition plan first. Doubling the maximum core count from eight to 64 cores, while also increasing IPC, means mapping is less straightforward.
AMD hit an unqualified home run with its 2nd Generation EPYC platform. This is now the platform to get in the market. Intel has talented engineering teams and in 2020 they will be competitive again. In the meantime, this is AMD’s market. There are many reasons for still buying Intel Xeon Scalable, but for the vast majority of users, unless 2nd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable CPUs are being discounted very heavily, AMD gives you more performance per dollar and per watt. Plus, AMD has a more modern architecture that Intel looks to follow in 2020 with Cooper Lake that it announced this week having almost as many cores.
At this point, what AMD needs is twofold:
- Partner systems to be readily available, and soon.
- Customers to change behavior and buy AMD EPYC.
Compared to our adventures testing the AMD EPYC 7001 series at launch, the systems we have in the lab designed for the 2nd Generation AMD EPYC 7002 series with PCIe Gen4 are much more refined. It would have been hard in August 2017 to install an AMD EPYC server in a production environment. Today, I would have no issue adding to the AMD EPYC servers in our production environment with the new generation EPYC 7002 CPUs and platforms. That says a lot about the work over the last two years getting the ecosystem going. At the same time, AMD needs these partner systems soon because it is now operating in an environment where Intel does not have a competitive product for several quarters.
The second is important. Customers need to adopt AMD EPYC. To our readers, it is important when you get a quote to at minimum quote an AMD EPYC alternative on every order. More important, follow through and buy ones where Intel is not competitive. If AMD EPYC 7002, with a massive core count, memory bandwidth, PCIe generation and lane count, power consumption, and pricing advantage cannot take significant share, we are basically done. If AMD does not gain enormous share with this much of a lead, and easy compatibility, Intel officially has a monopoly on the market and companies like Ampere and Marvell should shut down their Arm projects. If AMD does not gain significant share, there is no merit to having a wholistically better product than Intel.
Gaining that share requires that customers have the courage and mental fortitude to realize that there is an alternative in the market, realize it is significantly better (save for some non-mainstream use cases), and to follow through in their quotes and RFPs. As an industry, we need products that are objectively better in almost every aspect to gain share. For IT organizations, this is a prime opportunity to also re-evaluate ROI of bringing more Linux and VMware infrastructure back from the cloud where many cloud providers are trapped with older-generation Intel Xeon servers.
The bottom line is this: for the vast majority of the market, the TCO story for the AMD EPYC 7702P, and other SKUs is too good to ignore. Intel does not have a competitive product on tap until 2020.
Stay tuned to STH as we delve into more detail on the new AMD EPYC 7002 generation in future articles. That may seem strange after this 11,000+ word article, but there is a lot more to this story that we will cover in time. At this point, we are giving our STH Editor’s Choice Award to AMD EPYC 7002 which is only the third time we have ever given out the award.