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AMD launches its Epyc server chip to take on Intel in the data center

Marc Ferranti | June 21, 2017
Epyc is a multimodule SoC based on the 'Zen' architecture of its Ryzen Threadripper PC processor, offering a whopping 32 cores

At the high end, in approximately the $4,000 range, AMD internal benchmarks show the Epyc 7601 single-socket package offering 75 percent higher floating point performance (for spreadsheets, graphics and games, for instance) and 47 percent higher integer processing performance (for whole-number and text processing, for example) than Intel's E5-2699A v4. Interestingly, AMD benchmarks show 70 percent higher integer performance over Intel in the mid-range, $800 price point level, with the Epyc 7301 facing off against the Intel E5-7630.

At the Tuesday unveiling, AMD has a variety of partners doing demos to back all of this up. Pricing is important, but it's the entirety of the SoC (system on a chip) that gives AMD a foothold in the data center.

"What makes it so attractive is that it's not just AMD selling something for less," said Moorhead. "It's that a single socket server with all of the bandwidth and cores that are available will allow people to make smaller servers so you can have a higher density, and density is key particularly with the hyperscalers or even people in hosting."

Essentially, Epyc allows data centers to fit more servers into a smaller space, saving power, space, and operating costs. The greater the scale, the greater the savings.

AMD's Epyc one-socket processor chip

AMD's Epyc processor is available in one-socket and two-socket models.

AMD says it's the balance of performance and scalable memory that is its big differentiator. "The floating point performance we believe gets us a seat at the table and allows us then to unpack our memory bandwidth story and our memory performance," said AMD's Bounds.

Having the same memory capability and the same I/O footprint across the product range, from the 8-core version to the 32-core version, is key, Bounds said. "It's a massive, massive differentiator and disruptor over Broadwell and will continue to be so over Skylake," he said, referring to Intel's current and next-generation Xeon architecture, expected to be officially launched in July.

While Skylake will offer a performance hike over Broadwell, the expected 15 percent boost will not be enough to make up the gap with Epyc, especially in the single-socket package, while the memory scalability will also help AMD's new chip to stay competive, Moorhead agreed. 

Epyc will be socket-compatible with the next generation of the product family, and it also has a dedicated security subsystem, where AMD is burning cryptographic functions into the silicon of the memory controllers, effectively encrypting memory, Moorhead noted.

This is AMD's third big try in the server market; it has had enough success and failure to say it knows what it takes to be successful.


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