IS BULLDOZER better in a workstation than a desktop? Let's see if it can be.
AMD's Bulldozer chip, while eagerly awaited, didn't really have a stellar debut as a mainstream - or high end, for that matter - desktop processor, still having a way to go before seriously challenging the incumbent Intel. The core, cache and memory performance all need a bit more power, although recent news such as Microsoft Windows' kernel patches do seem to help a little bit towards extracting more oomph from the unusual 'two integer units sharing one floating-point' approach.
On the server and workstation front, where many cores are far more common than on desktops, and there are different implementations to suit users' needs, AMD could have a better chance. Its 'Interlagos' Opteron 6200 series dual die modules combine two Bulldozer dies in one G34 socket MCM (multi chip module) package, with a total of eight dual-core modules, four DDR3 memory channels and three Hypertransport links to up to three other Interlagos processors.
As Bulldozer did seem to have power and heat issues at high clock speeds, the lower clocks enforced by the two dies combined in one MCM might seem more fit for wider deployment in servers anyway. Workstations, on the other hand, do like high core speeds even more than desktops, so would the larger number of cores offset that somewhat?
Here we take a look at an AMD Interlagos workstation: a dual-socket AMD Opteron 6274 2.2GHz - up to 2.5 GHz in Turbo - system with a total of 32 cores, or 16 dual-core modules, 64GB of ECC DDR3-1333 RAM across eight channels, all packaged on the Supermicro reference G34 socket H8DG6 workstation platform.
The Supermicro reference workstation black box, a very popular sight for Intel reference systems as well, is a standard deep tower case, not changed in looks over the years, that allows the use of passive heat sinks even on 150W TDP CPUs by providing forced airflow from its batteries of high speed system fans and managing the resulting noise. It also has dual redundant PSU modules for beyond 1600W of combined power. The front removable storage bays are protected by a door, as seen on most of Supermicro's workstation boxes.
The Supermicro H8DG6 mainboard is a large sized full EPS unit with a total of 16 DIMM sockets across two processor sockets, supporting up to 512GB of RAM if you're using 32GB ECC DDR3 DIMMs. There are two full-bandwidth PCIe x16 v2 slots for high end graphics cards, supporting AMD Crossfire, obviously. The board uses the AMD SR5690 northbridge chip and the S100 southbridge chip. The test platform OS is Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, of course the 64-bit Enterprise version.
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ