AMD Opteron 6100 Series review

£490
Price when reviewed

POV-Ray

POV-Ray is a free software tool for creating 3D graphics, and we tested using version 3.7. It highlights the benefits of multicore technology and again uses lots of floating point operations and compute-intensive tasks.

AMD Opteron 6100 Series - POV-Ray

Yet again, the X7550 charged through this test, delivering speeds far in excess of the other processors. Its time of less than 27 seconds was between 38-41% faster than the Opteron 6174 and X5650.

Sandra Cryptography

We added this test to highlight the benefits of the new AES-NI instruction set in Intel’s Xeon 5600 family. Sandra tests the ability of the processor to handle encryption/decryption algorithms in hardware, and we used the overall cryptography bandwidth score to highlight the differences.

AMD Opteron 6100 Series - Sandra Cryptography

A quick glance clearly shows the benefits of the AES-NI instruction set. The X5650 and E5630 delivered far superior results, with the former outstripping the rest by a very large margin. AMD is planning on implementing an equivalent encryption instruction set, but not until 2011, making the Xeon 5600 currently the best choice for encryption tasks that can take advantage of Intel’s AES-NI.

All these tests focus heavily on sheer processor performance over memory capacity, so it’s no surprise to see the quad Xeon X7550 rig scoring significantly higher in every case. However, AMD acquitted itself well, beating the higher-speed X5650 in the CineBench and POV-Ray tests and doing poorly only in the FlamMap test.

AMD stacked up well for performance against the Xeon 6500. However, Intel is aiming this primarily at memory-intensive applications as it’s capable of supporting a lot more memory than the 6100 in a 2P server.

Power

The Opteron 6174 has an ACP rating of only 80W which did make its mark in our power tests as we saw the Boston 1120-T return idle and peak power readings of 163W and 356W. The X6550 has a TDP of 130W and our dual-processor rig with 128GB of memory returned higher readings of 392W and 558W. The X7550 also has a TDP of 130W and in a quad-socket system also with 128GB of DDR3 memory we saw idle and peak power readings of 495W and 820W respectively.

Conclusion

Realistically, the 6100 series can compete with the Xeon 7500 only at the lower end of the 4P market. It can’t match a quartet of them for performance, and its maximum memory support is lower.

One of the targets for Xeon 6500 and 7500 is the enterprise, with the latter processor family eyeing up the lucrative RISC market. This is where uptime is king, and to compete on an equal footing in this space Intel has implemented a heap of new RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability) features. We cover RAS in detail in our in-depth article of the Xeon 6500 and 7500 Series and also look at the new virtualisation features where Intel has added support for the SR-IOV (single route IO virtualisation) industry standard. We asked AMD about where it stood in these areas and what it could offer to compete against Intel, but it had no answers.

For now, the Opteron 6100 series offers a strong alternative to Xeon 5600 if physical core count and high memory support are key requirements. Performance is very similar across a range of tasks, and AMD’s competitive pricing also makes 4P systems a reality for smaller businesses that may want to consolidate their older 1P and 2P systems.

It’s worth noting that the Xeon 5600 is the second development phase for “Nehalem-EP” processors, whereas the 6100 has the “Interlagos” 12- and 16-core drop-in upgrades to look forward to. The future looks good for AMD fans, but all will be for naught if AMD can’t generate more interest from key server vendors, as without this it’ll never be able to hit Intel where it hurts most.

Specifications

Fab process45nm
HyperTransport frequency6,400MHz

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