Market Impact in 2023: AMD EPYC v. Intel Xeon
2023 will be fascinating. Let me be clear, AMD is going to do exceedingly well in the next generation. For the AMD EPYC 9654, 9654P, EPYC 9634, we do not expect Intel to field direct rivals. Likewise, the AMD EPYC 9554 and maybe the EPYC 9534 are going to be ahead of the top-bin Intel Xeon Sapphire Rapids parts.
AMD Bergamo will increase core counts. Intel’s answer for scaling out to many cores to meet the challenge presented by AMD Bergamo and various Arm competitors will be Sierra Forest, slated for 2024. When we discuss AMD EPYC Genoa, this is important. Genoa may have more cores than Intel, but it is not aiming to be the highest core count server chip and sacrifice its larger caches, nor floating point/ AI performance to do this. Genoa is a classic Intel Xeon competitor, whereas AMD Bergamo will be the scale-out core count effort.
We expect Genoa-X to blast well past 1GB/ socket of L3 cache. This will use a 3D V-Cache technology similar to what we saw with the AMD Milan-X. With four more CCDs, AMD will have 50% more CCDs to stack additional cache onto, plus there is an additional L3 cache per socket just from having more cores and CCDs. There are segments that are seeing huge benefits from larger caches, and those segments also tend to value higher core counts.
Intel’s Sapphire Rapids HBM will have more memory capacity but at a higher HBM latency versus L3 cache. That is going to be fascinating as it is likely going to be a working-set dependent where Intel and AMD will respectively come out on top.
If you have been reading STH recently or watching the STH YouTube, you will probably have seen a lot on the upcoming accelerators in the Intel Xeon Sapphire Rapids generation. We were able to see that things like the Intel QuickAssist accelerator(s) take up very little die space yet yield very solid performance gains.
We did not get to re-run these just due to time on the Genoa platform, but AMD will make some significant inroads here.
The key for Intel is that it needs to drive rapid adoption. I have been using QAT since 2016 (first hardware in 2013), and yet it is still nowhere near mainstream. Putting features like QAT in mainstream Xeon is key to adoption.
This is where Intel needs a strategic course correction and a hard one to make at that. The current plan is that Intel will offer accelerators on many of its chips. On lower-end SKUs, it is working with major OEM partners to enable an on-demand model so these accelerators can be used. Intel’s challenge is simple to appreciate. It has to work with OEMs to allow the enablement of accelerators. On the flip side, we do not, at this point, expect Intel will have a substantial performance per core advantage over AMD, if any at all, save for using its accelerators. Intel is stuck between the payoff for OEMs with the on-demand acceleration model and AMD having a bigger CPU. There is still time, but if Intel does not do this, then its last resort is to compete on price.
One other important bit is that we do not expect all Sapphire Rapids parts to have a full set of accelerators as we tested on the high-end Sapphire Rapids SKUs. Intel’s top-end SKU stack and middle-to-lower-end SKUs will be very different from what AMD is offering.
That brings us to a perhaps more impactful point. 2022 has seen a massive cliff in client PC demand. AMD’s strategy of building its Zen 4 CCD, then effectively leveraging the (more or less) same design on EPYC and Ryzen means that AMD has a conceptually clearer path to shifting resources to support Genoa growth than Intel does with Intel’s similar cores but different die approach to client and server.
Perhaps the best case is that the AMD EPYC Genoa will cause a shake-up on the Intel Xeon side. It is tough for an organization designed to service a 97%+ market share to have to go into underdog mode.
Perhaps the question at this point many are asking is simply, “is AMD EPYC Genoa any good?” The answer is clearly yes. AMD has pushed headfirst into the new era of servers with a very straightforward approach. Intel for its part has looked at what AMD is doing, and decided to go down a very different path. Assuming companies continue to buy servers, AMD will aggressively gain share in this generation. We have not spoken to anyone in the industry, at Intel included, that we have heard talk about Intel gaining lost market share back from AMD in the Genoa v. Sapphire generation.
This launch puts STH in a bit of an awkward position. We have two very similar QCT 2U servers, both with AMD EPYC Genoa and Intel Sapphire Rapids. We cannot publish the name or clock speed of the 60-core Sapphire SKUs we have, but we will say that we expect these to be higher-end parts. We do not expect Intel to be able to make 60-core versus 96-core comparisons without accelerators. Still, there are many market segments, and we expect Intel to be much more competitive outside of the race to the maximum number of cores per socket.
Still, at the high-end, one thing is for certain. AMD EPYC Genoa will put a gap between it and the Intel Xeon Sapphire Rapids launching in two months.