GCN Insider | Intel vs. AMD heats up

LOOKS DECEIVE: The upcoming Dual-Core Xeon 5100 series, codenamed Woodcrest, is wicked fast.

When a longtime, devoted customer like Dell Inc. quietly tells the world it plans to use some of your competition's server processors (which is what the Intel stalwart said of AMD Opteron CPUs last month), then a little good news couldn't hurt. And that seems to be what's in Intel's announcement of benchmark tests on its next-generation server processor family, codenamed 'Woodcrest.'

Woodcrest will be the first dual-core Xeon server processor based on Intel's new Core Architecture. It will be called the Dual-Core Xeon 5100 series; expect it in the third calendar quarter.

The litany of tests Intel ran on preproduction Woodcrest systems seem impressive (you can see them at www.intelstartyourengines.com). Intel used several industry-standard tests from the Standards Performance Evaluation Corp. and the Transaction Processing Performance Council, as well as others. In one, a Woodcrest-based HP ProLiant ML 370 G5 server managed 169,360 online database transactions per minute, which was about 50 percent faster than a dual-core Opteron 285-based system.

Not all performance gulfs were that wide (Intel itself has sometimes said it's going for a 20-percent boost over today's server processors). But what's worth noting is that the current dual-core Xeon 5000 processor, which used to be known as 'Dempsey' and is just now showing up in servers, offers very little'if any'performance advantage over the Opteron 285. In fact, the Opteron system outpaced a Xeon 5080 in floating-point throughput.

Bottom line: Today's dual-core Xeons won't light up the server world and may be lost in the shadows when Woodcrest finally ships. Intel officials said today's dual-core Xeons would go into lower-cost servers. But short term, it appears AMD may continue its winning ways in the server market. Three years ago, AMD-based servers were almost nonexistent. Today, by some estimates, AMD's share is around 20 percent.

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