Upgrading SQL Server–Generational Performance Increases for Two-Socket Servers

As I noted yesterday, Lenovo recently submitted a TPC-E benchmark result for a Lenovo ThinkSystem SR650 two-socket system, with two 14nm Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 28-core Skylake-SP processors and 1.5TB of DDR4 RAM. This system had a raw score of 6,598.36, and it has 56 physical processor cores. This flagship processor has a relatively low base clock speed of 2.5 GHz, with a Max Turbo frequency of 3.8 GHz. It also costs $10,009.00 for each processor.

So far, this is the only TPC-E benchmark submission for the new Intel Xeon Scalable Processor family (Skylake-SP). This submission is using SQL Server 2017. What is interesting is that it was done on June 27, 2017, which was several weeks before even SQL Server 2017 RC1 was released. Normally, Microsoft does not allow people to publish benchmark results on pre-release software, and they definitely have veto power over any TPC-E submissions. I am confident that the RTM version of SQL Server 2017 will have even better performance, especially since the release notes for SQL Server 2017 RC2 (which was available on August 2, 2017), states “This release contains bug fixes and performance improvements.”

A more affordable and faster processor choice for most SQL Server workloads is an eight-core processor for a two-socket server. Back in in Q2 of 2012, Intel released the 32nm Intel Xeon E5-2690 eight-core Sandy Bridge-EP processor, with a base clock speed of 2.9 GHz. Since then, they have released four new generations of two-socket Xeon processors, culminating in the current 14nm Intel Xeon Gold 6144 eight-core Skylake-SP processor that was released in Q3 of 2017. The comparative capacity and single-threaded performance of these five generations of Intel Xeon eight-core processors is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Generational Performance Increases for Eight-Core Intel Processors for Two-Socket Systems

What we have seen over the past five years is a definite slowing of single-threaded performance increases from these high clock speed eight core processors. Even so, in my experience, many organizations have historically done a pretty poor job of processor selection, so many legacy servers are not equipped with what was considered a “frequency-optimized” processor from a given processor family for a database server.

If you are building the case for an upgrade and migration effort, you need to consider the performance characteristics of your legacy hardware vs. what performance is possible with well-chosen new server hardware. Making good choices can allow you to have much better performance and more capacity, along with lower SQL Server licensing costs. Unfortunately, this won’t happen automatically. You have to stay involved and help make sure that the proper analysis and decisions are being made.


Additional Resources

I have a new Pluralsight course, SQL Server: Upgrading and Migrating to SQL Server 2016 has just been published. This is my eleventh course for Pluralsight, but the complete list of my courses is here.

Building on this online course is a new three day class, IEUpgrade: Immersion Event on Upgrading SQL Server, taught by myself and Tim Radney. The first round of this course will be taught in Chicago from October 11-13, 2017.

Finally, I will be presenting a half-day session called Migrating to SQL Server 2017 at the PASS Summit 2017 in Seattle, WA from October 31- November 3, 2017.

Here is a link to the complete series about upgrading SQL Server.

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