Sizing Up Servers: Intel's Skylake-SP Xeon versus AMD's EPYC 7000 - The Server CPU Battle of the Decade?by Johan De Gelas & Ian Cutress on July 11, 2017 12:15 PM EST
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Introducing Skylake-SP: The Xeon Scalable Processor Family
The biggest news hitting the streets today comes from the Intel camp, where the company is launching their Skylake-SP based Xeon Scalable Processor family. As you have read in Ian's Skylake-X review, the new Skylake-SP core has been rather significantly altered and improved compared to it's little brother, the original Skylake-S. Three improvements are the most striking: Intel added 768 KB of per-core L2-cache, changed the way the L3-cache works while significantly shrinking its size, and added a second full-blown 512 bit AVX-512 unit.
On the defensive and not afraid to speak their mind about the competition, Intel likes to emphasize that AMD's Zen core has only two 128-bit FMACs, while Intel's Skylake-SP has two 256-bit FMACs and one 512-bit FMAC. The latter is only useable with AVX-512. On paper at least, it would look like AMD is at a massive disadvantage, as each 256-bit AVX 2.0 instruction can process twice as much data compared to AMD's 128-bit units. Once you use AVX-512 bit, Intel can potentially offer 32 Double Precision floating operations, or 4 times AMD's peak.
The reality, on the other hand, is that the complexity and novelty of the new AVX-512 ISA means that it will take a long time before most software will adopt it. The best results will be achieved on expensive HPC software. In that case, the vendor (like Ansys) will ask Intel engineers to do the heavy lifting: the software will get good AVX-512 support by the expensive process of manual optimization. Meanwhile, any software that heavily relies on Intel's well-optimized math kernel libraries should also see significant gains, as can be seen in the Linpack benchmark.
In this case, Intel is reporting 60% better performance with AVX-512 versus 256-bit AVX2.
For the rest of us mere mortals, it will take a while before compilers will be capable of producing AVX-512 code that is actually faster than the current AVX binaries. And when they do, the result will be probably be limited, as compilers still have trouble vectorizing code from scratch. Meanwhile it is important to note that even in the best-case scenario, some of the performance advantage will be negated by the significantly lower clock speeds (base and turbo) that Intel's AVX-512 units run at due to the sheer power demands of pushing so many FLOPS.
For example, the Xeon 8176 in this test can boost to 2.8 GHz when all cores are active. With AVX 2.0 this is reduced to 2.4 GHz (-14%), with AVX-512, the clock tumbles down to 1.9 GHz (another 20% lower). Assuming you can fill the full width of the AVX unit, each step still sees a significant performance improvement, but AVX2 to AVX-512 won't offer a full 2x performance improvement even with ideal code.
Lastly, about half of the major floating point intensive applications can be accelerated by GPUs. And many FP applications are (somewhat) limited by memory bandwidth. While those will still benefit from better AVX code, they will show diminishing returns as you move from 256-bit AVX to 512-bit AVX. So most FP applications will not achieve the kinds of gains we saw in the well-optimized Linpack binaries.
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tamalero - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkHow is that different if AMD ran stuff that is extremely optimized for them?
Friendly0Fire - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkThat's kinda the point? You want to benchmark the CPUs in optimal scenarios, since that's what you'd be looking at in practice. If one CPU's weakness is eliminated by using a more recent/tweaked compiler, then it's not a weakness.
coder543 - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkRather, you want to test under practical scenarios. Very few people are going to be running 17.04 on production grade servers, they will run an LTS release, which in this case is 16.04.
It would be good to have benchmarks from 17.04 as another point of comparison, but given how many things they didn't have time to do just using 16.04, I can understand why they didn't use 17.04.
Santoval - Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - linkA compromise can be found by upgrading Ubuntu 16.04's outdated kernel. Ubuntu LTS releases include support for rolling HWE Stacks, which is a simple meta package for installing newer kernels compiled, modified, tested and packaged by the Ubuntu Kernel Team, and installed directly from the official Ubuntu repositories (not via a Launchpad PPA). With HWE 16.04 LTS can install up to the kernel of 18.04 LTS.
I also use 16.04 LTS + HWE (it just requires installing the linux-generic-hwe-16.04 package), which currently provides the 4.8 kernel. There is even a "beta" version of HWE (the same package plus an -edge at the end) for installing the 4.10 kernel (aka the kernel of 17.04) earlier, which will normally be released next month.
I just spotted various 4.10 kernel listings after checking in Synaptic, so they must have been added very recently. After that there are two more scheduled kernel upgrades, as is shown in the following link. Of course HWE upgrades solely the kernel, it does not upgrade any application or any of the user level parts to a more recent version of Ubuntu.
CajunArson - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkConsidering the similarities between RyZen and Haswell (that aren't coincidental at all) you are already seeing a highly optimized set of RyZen results.
But I have no problem seeing RyZen be tested with the newest distros, the only difference being that even Ubuntu 16.04 already has most of the optimizations for RyZen baked in.
coder543 - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkWhat similarities? They're extremely different architectures. I can't think of any obvious similarities. Between the CCX model, caches being totally different layouts, the infinity fabric, Intel having better AVX-256/512 stuff (IIRC), etc.
I don't think 16.04 is naturally any more optimized for Ryzen than it is for Skylake-SP.
CajunArson - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkOh please, at the core level RyZen is a blatant copy-n-paste of Haswell with the only exception being they just omitted half the AVX hardware to make their lives easier.
It's so obvious that if you followed any of the developer threads for people optimizing for RyZen they say to just use the Haswell compiler optimizations that actually work better than the official RyZen optimization flags.
ddriver - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkCan't tell if this post is funny or sad.
CajunArson - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkIt's neither: It's accurate.
Don't believe me? Look at the differences in performance of the holy 1800X over multiple Linux distros ranging from pretty new (OpenSuse Tumbleweed) to pretty old (Fedora 23 from 2015): http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&...
Nowhere near the variation that we see with Skylake X since Haswell was already a solved problem long before RyZen lauched.
coder543 - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - linkRight, of course. Ryzen is a copy-and-paste of Haswell.
Don't make me laugh.