Two New TPC-E Benchmark Results for Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge-EX Processors

A couple of weeks ago, two new TPC-E benchmark submissions showed up for four-socket servers with the new 22nm, 15-core Intel Xeon E7-4890 v2 processor that I discussed a few days ago. NEC submitted a result for a four-socket NEC Express5800/A2040b system with a raw TPC-E score of 5,087.17, while IBM submitted a result for a four-socket IBM System x3850 X6 system with a raw TPC-E score of 5,576.27.

These are both incredible scores for a four-socket system, both for the actual raw score and from a score per physical core perspective. Both of these tested systems have actual TPC-E scores that rival an eight-socket system with the previous generation 32nm Intel Xeon E7-4870 Westmere-EX processor, while their single-threaded performance (as measured by the TPC-E score divided by the number of physical cores) is also relatively close to what we see in the latest 22nm Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2 Ivy Bridge-EP processors. This gives you the possibility of eight-socket capacity, with close to modern two-socket single-threaded performance in a four-socket server.

System Processor TPC-E Score Sockets Total Cores Score/Core
IBM System x3650 M4 E5-2697 v2 2590.93 2 24 107.96
IBM System x3850 X6 E7-4890 v2 5576.27 4 60 92.94
IBM System x3850 X5 E7-4870 3218.46 4 40 80.46
IBM System X3850 X5 E7-8870 5457.20 8 80 68.22

Table 1: Recent IBM TPC-E Benchmark scores

As you can see from Table 1, the Intel Xeon E7-4890 v2 processor is a huge improvement over the previous Intel Xeon E7-4870 processor, with much higher overall capacity and higher single-threaded performance. You also get much higher memory capacity and PCI-E 3.0 support with the new processor.

On the negative side, your SQL Server 2012/2014 core license costs will be 50% higher if you go with the high-end 15-core E7-4890 v2 processor. One alternative would be to use the 12-core, Xeon E7-4860 v2 processor or even the ten-core, Xeon E7-4830 v2 processor to minimize your SQL Server 2012/2014 license costs. One slight problem with that strategy is that the base and turbo clock speeds are lower in the lower core-count processors in the Xeon E7-48xx v2 product family, since they don’t have lower core count, “frequency-optimized” models like the Xeon E5-26xx v2 product family does.

Four-socket systems with these new processors are going to be much faster and have much more total load capacity than previous four-socket systems with the older Westmere-Ex processor.

Bigger Database Servers Get Faster

For quite some time, I have been talking about how current Intel-based four-socket database servers have had significantly lower single-threaded processor performance than current Intel-based two-socket database servers. This is because the first generation Intel Xeon E7 processors were using the relatively old 32nm Westmere microarchitecture that was introduced in early 2011 for the initial Xeon E7 (Westmere-EX) product line.

These E7 processors also use much lower base and turbo clock speeds than current Xeon E5 v2 processors, which also hurts their single-threaded processor performance. They do have higher overall concurrent load capacity due to higher total memory capacity and more total processor cores, but the individual processor cores in most four-socket servers have been much slower than what you find in a modern two-socket server. Simply put, bigger servers are not faster servers. It is like comparing an eighteen wheeler truck to a Tesla Model S.

Now, that old assessment is going to change somewhat, with the release of the 22nm Intel Xeon E7 Processor v2 Family (Ivy Bridge-EX), and new model servers from the major server vendors that have even higher memory capacity, PCI-E 3.0 support, and 12Gbps SAS/SATA support, along with much faster RAID controllers. These processors are a substantial improvement over the previous generation 32nm Intel Xeon E7 processors (Westmere-EX) that have been available since early 2011.

It will still be possible to configure a new two-socket server, such as a Dell PowerEdge R720, with an appropriate 22nm Intel Xeon E5-2600 Processor v2 Family (Ivy Bridge-EP) processor that will have better single-threaded performance than a new four-socket server such as a Dell PowerEdge R920, but the gap will not be nearly as large as it once was.

The actual good news here for a database professional is the fact that you will be able to have a four-socket server that has as much load capacity as a previous generation, eight-socket server, that also performs nearly as well as a current two-socket server, while paying 25% less for your SQL Server 2012/2014 license costs (compared to a previous generation eight-socket server). This is a pretty big gift from Intel!

A more pessimistic view is that your SQL Server 2012/2014 license costs could rise by 50% as you move from an existing server equipped with four, ten-core Xeon E7-4870 processors (with a total of forty physical cores) to a new server with four, fifteen-core Xeon E7-4890 v2 processors (with a total of of sixty physical cores). For reasons known only to Intel, the lower core count SKUs in the Xeon E7-48xx v2 product family are not “frequency optimized”, meaning they do not have higher clock speeds than the high-end, E7-4890 v2 processor. The base and turbo clock speeds of the best lower core-count SKUs in the E7- 48xx v2 family actually drop off pretty quickly as the core counts go down. The shared-L3 cache sizes also drop off very quickly, as does the processor price, as you can see in Table 1.

Processor Physical Cores L3 Cache Base Clock Turbo Clock Price
E7-4890 v2 15 37.5 MB 2.8GHz 3.4GHz $6,619.00
E7-4860 v2 12 30 MB 2.6GHz 3.2GHz $3,838.00
E7-4830 v2 10 20 MB 2.2GHz 2.7GHz $2,059.00
E7-4820 v2 8 16 MB 2.0GHz 2.5GHz $1,446.00
E7-4809 v2 6 12 MB 1.9GHz N/A $1,223.00

Table 1: Selected Intel E7-48xx v2 Processors


With the Xeon E4-48xx v2 product family, you are going to want to choose either the E7-4890 v2 or the E7-4860 v2 model processors in most situations, since the lower core count processors are giving up a substantial amount of performance due to their lower clock speeds and smaller L3 cache sizes. If you really want to reduce your core counts to reduce your SQL Server 2012/2014 license costs, you would be better off with the Intel Xeon E5-26xx v2 product family processors that are used in two socket servers. Another alternative is the upcoming Intel Xeon E5-46xx v2 product family processors that are used in four-socket servers.

Either of those choices would be better than one of the lower core count processors in the E7-48xx v2 product family, at least from a pure processor performance perspective.

Intel also has refreshed the E7-88xx v2 product family that is meant for eight-socket and larger servers. For some reason (probably for HPC use), Intel does have “frequency-optimized”, lower core-count models in this product family, as you can see in Table 2.

Processor Physical Cores L3 Cache Base Clock Turbo Clock Price
E7-8890 v2 15 37.5 MB 2.8GHz 3.4GHz $6,841.00
E7-8857 v2 12 30 MB 3.0GHz 3.6GHz $3,838.00
E7-8891 v2 10 37.5 MB 3.2GHz 3.7GHz $6,841.00
E7-8893 v2 6 37.5 MB 3.4GHz 3.7GHz $6,841.00

Table 2: Selected Intel E7-88xx v2 Processors


I could see some scenarios where you might want to get an eight-socket server with the six-core E7-8893 v2, so that you could have the same physical core count, while having double the memory capacity and much better single-threaded processor performance than a four-socket server with the twelve-core E7-4860 v2. The hardware cost would be significantly higher, since you would be buying eight processors for $6,841.00 each instead of four processors at $3,838.00 each, but for many organizations, that would not be a major issue.

Some server vendors may offer the Xeon E7-88xx v2 processors in their four-socket server models, since they are pin-compatible, which would give us a lot more flexibility as far as processor selection goes. I really wish Intel had “frequency-optimized” models in their Xeon E7-48xx v2 product family, to make this even easier.