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While Intel's claims on the Xeon 55xx product page are based on a flawed comparison, the newest VMmark data suggests that the "Nehalem Xeon" is indeed more than twice as fast than the older Xeons and (almost) twice as fast as the newest Opterons when running on ESX 4.0. We expect the Dual Opteron "Shanghai" 8389 at 2.9GHz to achieve a score between 12 and 13.5 on ESX 4.0, while the typical score for the Xeon X5570 is around 20-23.5 depending on the clock speed of the DDR3 modules.

That tells the ICT professional that the Xeon X5570 is a CPU with the potential to run extremely high amounts of VMs, but not much more. The real world value of VMmark is highly debatable as it is showing its age:

  • How many of us are running more than 50 to 100 VMs, which need on average only 1GB per VM? It sounds like desktop virtualization, but it is supposed to represent server virtualization.
  • Would there be any real world java application that shows the same performance profile as SPECjbb? No I/O, no shared data between the different threads, and "SPECjbb-only" JVM optimizations?
  • How close is SysBench, which perform all its transactions on a monolithic table, to a real OLTP database running on top of a hypervisor?

The problem is that VMmark is only one data point, which hardly reflects any real world scenarios IT professionals currently use. As a result, VMmark is yet another industry benchmark where the experts of the large OEMs create unrealistically high scores with expensive SAN configurations. It's still interesting but hardly relevant for the real world. It is time for a new data point. The more virtualization scenarios tested the better. Just give us a few more days….

ESX 4.0: Nehalem Enhanced
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  • duploxxx - Sunday, May 10, 2009 - link

    time for some OEM beta hardware :)
  • has407 - Saturday, May 9, 2009 - link

    With a single socket (assuming quad core), I'd think you should be able to do it with less memory, maybe 32-48GB? (unless your IO subsystem is slow) Even if that's beyond reach, a relative measure with a smaller number of tiles might be interesting (ok, it won't be strictly by-the-VMark-book).
  • tshen83 - Friday, May 8, 2009 - link

    So,I take it that you want to discredit VMmark as being a relevant benchmark for virtualization?

    You know VMmark isn't the only benchmark that says Nehalem is twice as efficient in performance/watt than Shanghais right?

    In the last paragraph, you said "give us a few more days". To do what? To selectively choose a few benchmarks that show that Shanghai is a better CPU for virtualization workloads? Good luck with that.

    Sometimes I want to find a ruler and measure just how deep you stuck your head up AMD's rear end. Sometimes I also wonder why a Belgian is so freaking adamant about AMD. Anand got too cheap I guess to outsource an important job to Belgium I guess.
  • 7Enigma - Monday, May 11, 2009 - link

    What I find so funny about this post is that since the Nehelem launch the author has chronically been labeled pro-Intel in the comments section of the majority of his articles. Just goes to show you; you can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, and in the case of Intel/AMD, none of the people all of the time. :)
  • whatthehey - Friday, May 8, 2009 - link

    Or perhaps he just has some information on a new virtualization benchmark suite, which may or may not show Shanghai in a better light.

    I think it's pretty easy to conclude that the two year old design of VMmark is aging and not as relevant as when it first came out (if it was even truly relevant then). So let's wait a few more days, eh?

    Sometimes I want to pull out a ruler to measure just how far up Intel's ass tshen83 has shoved his head so that he can't even consider any viewpoint that doesn't state that Intel is unequivocally the best. Seriously, look at any AMD or Intel article, and he's there espousing the virtues of Intel and trashing everything AMD does. It's not all black and white, dude... except when you get paid by Intel to do what you do, of course.
  • Viditor - Monday, May 11, 2009 - link

    My own guess is that tshen83 has become a 100% Intel ass, the 2 things have merged in this reality...:)

    I would like to see how things compare on the larger boxes though. There are an awful lot of 4 and 8 way VM machines going out there right now...
  • noxipoo - Friday, May 8, 2009 - link

    Plenty of companies have old servers that doesn't need much. NT4 to 2000 servers can easily range to those numbers at most corporations.
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, May 9, 2009 - link

    Possible, but still an exception. Windows 2000 and NT4 servers have become a minority, probably less than 5% of the installed base.

    And you are probably not too concerned about CPU performance when consolidating those servers.
  • duploxxx - Friday, May 8, 2009 - link

    Finally some good article to breach this new vmmark scores.

    Although it is clear that the new Nehalem based system is better then current shanghai this is mostly due to the 3 mem controllers (which in the end provides more mem/cpu) and faster memory. The HT feature is the main VMmark whoop score cause here, it is already stated by many Vmware performance representatives that people should take care about the HT core as a real core in production, if you do this the performance will get bad just as previous HT, although the ESX sw is no much more aware of this feature (esx 3.5u4 and esx4), but is seems like the vmmark is not able to see the difference since there is not enough load on the system.

    All other features are now equal while shanghai switching time was way better then harpertown the nehalem is more or less equal, also the ept/npt or rapid V or whatever you want to call it is now implemented.

    so a final vmmark performance score you stated around 16-17 sounds very reasonable.

    the performance enhancements in esx4 are not really for HT rather the core coherency features like vmware wants to call this, iommu which will be first introduced by amd istanbul and most important the paravirtualized scsi driver and off course more cpu/vm and a lot of memory, scheduling improvement.....etc....

    Perhaps you should contact there are aware of this VMmark real world difference and are working on a new version.
  • lopri - Friday, May 8, 2009 - link

    Yet again from Johan. Johan never disappoints! I have just had a quick read, but I will take a thorough read later. Thank you much and I'd like the follow-up articles very much, too.

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