If you examine the CPU industry and ask where the big money is, you have to look at the server and datacenter market. Ever since the Opteron days, AMD's market share has been rounded to zero percent, and with its first generation of EPYC processors using its new Zen microarchitecture, that number skipped up a small handful of points, but everyone has been waiting with bated breath for the second swing at the ball. AMD's Rome platform solves the concerns that first gen Naples had, plus this CPU family is designed to do many things: a new CPU microarchitecture on 7nm, offer up to 64 cores, offer 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0, offer 8 memory channels, and offer a unified memory architecture based on chiplets. Today marks the launch of Rome, and we have some of our own data to share on its performance.

Review edited by Dr. Ian Cutress

First Boot

Sixty-four cores. Each core with an improved Zen 2 core, offering ~15% better IPC performance than Naples (as tested in our consumer CPU review), and doubled AVX2/FP performance. The chip has a total of 256 MB of L3 cache, and 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes. AMD's second generation EPYC, in this case the EPYC 7742, is a behemoth.

Boot to BIOS, check the node information.

[Note: That 1500 mV reading in the screenshot is the same reading we see on consumer Ryzen platforms; it seems to be the non-DVFS voltage as listed in the firmware, but isn't actually observed]

It is clear that the raw specifications of our new Rome CPU is some of the most impressive on the market. The question then goes to whether or not this is the the new fastest server chip on the market - a claim that AMD is putting all its weight behind. If this is the new fastest CPU on the market, the question then becomes 'by how much?', and 'how much does it cost?'.

I have been covering server CPUs since the launch of the Opteron in 2003, but this is nothing like I have seen before: a competitive core and twice as much of them on a chip than what the competition (Intel, Cavium, even IBM) can offer. To quote AMD's SVP of its Enterprise division, Forrest Norrod

"We designed this part to compete with Ice Lake, expecting to make some headway on single threaded performance. We did not expect to be facing re-warmed Skylake instead. This is going to be one of the highlights of our careers"

Self-confidence is at all times high at AMD, and on paper it would appear to be warranted. The new Rome server CPUs have improved core IPC, a doubling of the core count at the high end, and it is using a new manufacturing process (7 nm) technology in one swoop. Typically we see a server company do one of those things at a time, not all three. It is indeed a big risk to take, and the potential to be exciting if everything falls into place. 

To put this into perspective: promising up to 2x FP performance, 2x cores, and a new process technology would have sounded so odd a few years ago. At the tail end of the Opteron days, just 4-5 years ago, Intel's best CPUs were up to three times faster. At the time, there was little to no reason whatsoever to buy a server with AMD Opterons. Two years ago, EPYC got AMD back into the server market, but although the performance per dollar ratio was a lot better than Intel's, it was not a complete victory. Not only was AMD was still trailing in database performance and AVX/FP performance, but partners and OEMs were also reluctant to partner with the company without a proven product.

So now that AMD has proven its worth with Naples, and AMD promising more than double the deployed designs of Rome with a very quick ramp to customers, we have to compare the old to the new. For the launch of the new hardware, AMD provided us with a dual EPYC 7742 system from Quanta, featuring two 64-core CPUs.

Zen 2 and Rome: SMILE For Performance
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  • krumme - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Because he is feeded by another hand.
    Enjoy the objectivity by Johan as its is very rare these days. It's not easy for AT to post this stuff. So kudos to them.
  • hoohoo - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Nice review, but tbh I think you should run the AMD system as such, not limit it's RAM to what the Intel system maxes out at. I would not buy a system and configure it to limits of the competition: I would configure it to it's actual linits.
  • yankeeDDL - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Wow. "Blasted" is the only word that comes to mind. Good job AMD.
  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Thanks Johan and Ian! Impressive results, glad to see that AMD is once again making Intel sweat, all of which can only be good for us.
    Question: A bit out of left field, but why does AMD put the 7 nm dies in these close pairs, as opposed to leaving a little more space between them? Wouldn't thermals be better if each chip gets a little more "reserved" lid space? Just curious. Thanks!
  • sharath.naik - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Now since we finally are entering the era where a single server(Yes backup is addition) is enough for most of smaller organizations. There is one thing that is needed, OS limits/zones which can limit the cpus and memory built in, instead of using VMs. This will save a lot on resources wasted on booting up an entire OS for individual applications. Linux has the ability for targeting specific cpus but not sure windows has it. But there is a need for standardized way to limit resources by process and by user.
  • mdriftmeyer - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

  • quorm - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Is it possible you haven't heard of docker?
  • abufrejoval - Sunday, August 11, 2019 - link

    or OpenVZ/Virtuozzo or quite simply cgroups. Can even nest them, including with VMs.
  • DillholeMcRib - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    destruction … Intel sat on their proverbial hands too long. It's over.
  • crotach - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    Bye Intel!!

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