Woodcrest outperforms Opteron in speed and power consumption - analyst

An analyst from Thomas Weisel Partners today issued a research brief that included a first evaluation of Intel's claim to achieve market leadership in terms of power consumption and application performance with its upcoming Xeon 5100 (Woodcrest core) processor.

The test compared current Opteron systems from Sun and Monarch based on an Opteron 285 (2.6 GHz) processor with a 3.0 GHz Woodcrest system. The systems apparently were comparable, however, the Woodcrest system used 4 GB FB DIMMs instead of the 4 GB of DDR memory of the Opterons, which would it at a slight disadvantage from the start in terms of power consumption - DDR2-based FB DIMMs consume more power than their DDR counterparts. The specifications - based on thermal design power (TDP) ratings - of the systems suggested that Woodcrest will ask for more and was put at a 261.6 watt to 241.2 watt disadvantage. Interestingly, the system used substantially less power in the tests that Eric Gomberg from Thomas Weisel Partners conducted.

Gomberg used a single software for his benchmarks - Sungard AAA, "a real-time credit risk application for counterparty credit exposure aggregation" - and measured the power consumption of all three systems in idle and full throttle.

Compared to the Monarch system, the Woodcrest server consumed 67 watts less when idle (152 to 219 watts) and 61 watts less when under load (245 to 306 watts). The differences in the Sun system were even greater - 106 watt when idle (151 to 257 watts) and 75 watts under load (243 to 318 watts).

In terms of performance, the Sungard benchmark ran through in 442 seconds on the Woodcrest server and took 571 and 584 seconds with the AMD Monarch and Sun servers, respectively.

Gomberg, however, pointed out some areas of concern - which included the fact that the Opteron servers did not use their power management feature and ran in a considerably smaller form factor, which required additional fans that added to the power consumption. Additionally, AMD will launch Socket F Opterons soon (Santa Rosa platform), which should decrease the Opteron's power consumption and increase performance on the high end through the use of DDR2 memory and an available 3.0 GHz version.

However, all factors considered, Woodcrest may still have a good shot coming out on top given its apparent significant lead in performance and power consumption. Based on the results observed, Gomberg concluded in the research paper distributed to the clients of Thomas Weisel Partners that Intel is "well positioned" for a performance-per-watt leadership - which certainly contributed to his decision to "reiterate" an "outperform" rating for Intel's stock. The firm maintains its "peer perform rating" for AMD's stock "in light of potential share loss as Intel ramps its new Core micro-architecture."