Glenn’s Tech Insights For June 13, 2019

(Glenn’s Tech Insights… used to be part of our bi-weekly newsletter but we decided to make it a regular blog post instead so it can get more visibility. It covers interesting new hardware and software developments that are generally relevant for SQL Server).

AMD Announcements at the E3 Conference

On June 10, 2019 AMD President and CEO, Dr. Lisa Su delivered a presentation at the E3 Expo 2019 in Los Angeles. During this presentation, Dr. Su announced more architectural details about the 7nm Ryzen 3000 series mainstream desktop processors,including a new 16C/32T, Ryzen 9 3950X SKU. AMD also demoed the upcoming 7nm AMD EYPC “Rome” server processors, along with the upcoming 7nm AMD Radeon RX 5700 “Navi” video cards. The updated Ryzen 3000 SKU list is shown in Figure 1.

AMD Ryzen 3000 Series

Figure 1: AMD Ryzen 3000 Lineup

One of the more interesting bits of new information is the fact that AMD has been working closely with Microsoft to develop improvements to how scheduling and thread allocation is handled on AMD Zen2 architecture processors on Windows 10 Build 1903. They are moving from a hybrid thread expansion strategy (where active cores are placed as far away from each other as possible) to thread grouping, where new threads are allocated  as close as possible to already active cores, hopefully on the same CCX. This improves thread to thread communication by speeding up memory access. This is designed to improve the apparent scheduling issues seen on Windows with some AMD Zen processors. You will need an updated AMD chipset driver to get this improvement.

It is not yet clear how well this will work on more heavily threaded workloads like you typically see on a database server. I am also not yet 100% certain that this fix is in Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019 yet. The upcoming AMD EPYC “Rome” processors use the same Zen 2 architecture, so it is possible they will benefit from this change with some workloads.

Figure 2: Topology Awareness

Another Windows 10 Build 1903 improvement that will definitely help AMD Zen architecture processors is a feature that AMD calls faster clock ramping. It is actually UEFI Collaborative Power Performance Control 2 (CPPC2), which lets the processor and operating system cooperate more closely (and quickly) to increase the clock speed of individual cores more rapidly under a load. This feature moves P-state control from the OS to the processor, so the processor can “throttle up” much more quickly than before. AMD is claiming a clock ramp time of 1-2ms with this improvement compared to about 30ms before. This will also require a UEFI/BIOS update and a new AMD chipset driver before it will work.

This feature is very similar to Intel Speed Shift, which was introduced with their Skylake processors, and improved with Kaby Lake. Intel Speed Shift requires Windows 10 v10586 or Windows Server 2016 or newer. Intel Speed Shift takes 15-30ms to ramp up, so it is not as responsive as AMD’s implementation. AMD also revealed that the Zen 2 architecture processors will have hardware level mitigations for Spectre and Spectre v4. Keep in mind that AMD processors are not vulnerable to Meltdown, or newer exploits such as Foreshadow or Zombieload.

These architectural improvements in the Zen 2 architecture will also show up in the upcoming (Q3 2019) 7nm AMD EPYC “Rome” server processors, which is very exciting from a SQL Server perspective.

Glenn’s Tech Insights For May 28, 2019

(Glenn’s Tech Insights… used to be part of our bi-weekly newsletter but we decided to make it a regular blog post instead so it can get more visibility. It covers interesting new hardware and software developments that are generally relevant for SQL Server).

AMD Computex 2019 Announcements

On May 27, 2019, AMD President and CEO, Dr. Lisa Su delivered the opening keynote at Computex 2019 Taipei. During this keynote, Dr. Su announced more details about the 7nm Ryzen 3000 series mainstream desktop processors, 7nm AMD EYPC “Rome” server processors, 7nm AMD Radeon RX 5700 “Navi” video cards and the upcoming X570 chipset motherboards.

AMD is claiming a 15% IPC improvement, a 2X L3 cache size increase, and a 2X floating point performance improvement over the Ryzen 2000 series. AMD revealed some fairly detailed specifications and pricing for some of the Ryzen 3000 series processors, as shown in Figure 1.

Ryzen 3000

Figure 1: AMD Ryzen 3000 Series Processors

AMD ran some Cinebench R20 and Blender demonstrations on stage comparing Ryzen 3000 series processors to various Intel mainstream desktop and HEDT processors. If these demonstrations are accurate (and we won’t know for sure until the various hardware enthusiast sites and respected YouTube hardware reviewers do independent testing), then AMD should have an amazing, game-changing product. They will have better single-threaded CPU performance, better multi-threaded CPU performance, PCIe 4.0 support, and lower prices than equivalent current Intel processors.

Just in case 12C/24T isn’t enough, there are many reports from good sources that there will be a 16C/32T SKU that will be released later this year. The Ryzen 3000 processors are due to be on store shelves on July 7, 2019.

3rd Gen Ryzen Performance

Figure 2: AMD Ryzen 3000 Performance Comparisons

There was also a quick AMD EPYC “Rome” demonstration, comparing a two-socket AMD EPYC “Rome” system to a two-socket Intel Xeon Platinum 8280M system, where the AMD system had more than twice the performance. This isn’t a huge surprise, since the AMD system had 64C/128T processors vs. 28C/56T processors for the Intel system. We still don’t know the detailed specifications for the  7nm “Rome” processors, but if they show similar IPC improvements to the AMD Ryzen 3000 series desktop processors (they both use the same Zen 2 architecture), it will be very impressive.  Forrest Norrod, AMD’s SVP and GM of the Datacenter and Embedded Solutions Group, confirmed a Q3 2019 Release Date for “Rome” during the keynote.

Here are some relevant YouTube videos:

AMD R9 3900X, 3800X, 3700X Specs & Price: 16-Core Held Back for Now (& RX 5700 GPU)

3rd Gen AMD Ryzen 5, 7 & 9 Announced… It’s Official, Intel’s Screwed

AMD’s $500 12-Core Ryzen 9 3900X CONFIRMED! Computex 2019 Keynote Recap

I need to buy AMD stock. NOW.

Gigabyte X570 Master VRM & PCB Analysis | Efficiency Estimations

Corsair Force Series MP600 SSD PCIe 4.0

Corsair announced a new Force Series MP600 PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD at Computex 2019. If you have this drive in a PCIe 4.0 system, you will get up to 4,950 MB/s of sequential read performance and 4,240 MB/s of sequential write performance. That is pretty impressive, but it is not close to what a PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 socket can deliver, which would be nearly 8 GB/sec. Apparently, the Psison PS5016-E16 controller is the bottleneck, keeping the drive limited to about 5GB/sec on reads.

The large heatsink means this won’t fit in your laptop! Actually, because PCIe 4.0 uses significantly more power than PCIe 3.0, I don’t think we will be seeing PCIe 4.0 support in laptops for a while. That large heatsink should help reduce thermal throttling of the drive in desktop systems.


Figure 3: Corsair Force Series MP600 SSD

This is one of the first announced PCIe 4.0 drives in the consumer space. There are no details yet about capacity, pricing, or availability.

Glenn’s Tech Insights For February 21, 2019

(Glenn’s Tech Insights… used to be part of our bi-weekly newsletter but we decided to make it a regular blog post instead so it can get more visibility. It covers interesting new hardware and software developments that are generally relevant for SQL Server).

PCIe 5.0 Nears Release

On January 17, 2019, the PCI-SIG ratified version 0.9 of the PCIe 5.0 standard, with version 1.0 of the standard expected to be ratified later in Q1 of 2019. PCIe 5.0 doubles the bandwidth of PCIe 4.0, going from 64GB/s with sixteen lanes to 128GB/s with sixteen lanes. The PCIe 4.0 standard also doubled the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0, which was “only” 32GB/s with sixteen lanes.

Currently, no released AMD or Intel processors have PCIe 4.0 support, but the upcoming 7nm AMD Ryzen 3000 desktop processors and the AMD EPYC “Rome” server processors will both have PCIe 4.0 support. The upcoming Intel Cascade Lake-SP server processors will NOT have PCIe 4.0 support.

After you have processor support for PCIe 4.0 and greater, you will need storage devices that support PCIe 4.0 and greater.

The first public PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD was demoed by Phison at CES. It was a Phison PS5016-E16. This SSD did 4069MB/sec for sequential reads and 4268MB/sec for sequential writes on CrystalDiskMark. Phison claims that the released version will have speeds up to 4.8/4.4 GB/s of read/write sequential throughput. This card is due to go on sale in Q3 of 2019.

AMD EPYC Market Share Analysis

ServeTheHome has a thoughtful article looking at the market share gains in the server space by the current generation AMD EPYC “Naples” processor. This processor was first released in mid-2017. AMD has gone from 0.8% in Q4 of 2017 to 3.2% in Q4 of 2018. That is still a small number, but I believe that market share will start to increase at a much faster rate during 2019 and 2020.

This is because both HPE and Dell EMC have multiple AMD EPYC systems on the market. Another reason is because the 7nm AMD EPYC “Rome” processors are due to be released in mid-2019. I think the AMD EPYC “Rome” processor is going to be a huge success. Rome will have PCIe 4.0 support, very high memory density, and possibly better single-threaded performance than Intel Cascade Lake-SP. This could make the AMD EPYC “Rome” processor a better choice for SQL Server OLTP usage than Intel Cascade Lake-SP. We will see as we get closer to release, and start to see more benchmark results.

AMD Ryzen 3000 Series Release Date Rumors

RedGamingTech reports that the upcoming 7nm AMD Ryzen 3000 “Matisse” mainstream desktop processors (and a new, optional X570 chipset) are going to be released by AMD on July 7, 2019. This will happen during Computex 2019. The expectation is that these AMD processors will initially have twelve physical cores. There will be a 16-core SKU being released later in the year.  This SKU will counter the expected release of the 10nm 10-core Intel Comet Lake desktop processors.

It is possible that AMD will then have both a single-threaded CPU performance and a core count advantage. These processors will also sell at a lower price than the competing Intel mainstream desktop parts. This situation will probably true for at least nine-twelve months. This is not good news for Intel, and it will be interesting to see how they respond to this challenge.