Oh how I wish, how I wish for PE a64 servers...

James Howard jhoward at satx.rr.com
Thu Mar 10 19:33:04 CST 2005

FWIW...power consumption is another HUGE hurdle with the new Intel based
servers. HP DL585 has 2 x 870W PS 100-240V autosensing
20Specifications for more details) where as a certain new system (NDA ges in
the way of details here, sorry) REQUIRES 208V minimum and is almost double
the wattage per P/S !  Can you say datacenter reconfiguration nightmare for
power distribution ??  Since most of us simply cannot do that, choices get
kinda limited 

1) Reconfigure DC,just a bit on the $$$ side of things , not to mention a
logistics nightmare  

2) Keep using current systems but eventually the cost to support them vs
useability etc goes in the toilet 

3) Use a different type of server, say one based on an Opteron ??

I really wish Dell would actually take two steps back from the magic Intel
Kool-Aid, run some independent tests, and maybe, just maybe listen to their
customers who have evaluated AMD based systems, some of use actually have a
clue and aren't just lured in by `Bright New Shiny Things` and understand
the cost benefits associated with faster systems, lower operating costs and
much more scalability..


-----Original Message-----
From: linux-poweredge-bounces at dell.com
[mailto:linux-poweredge-bounces at dell.com] On Behalf Of Ricardo, Gerson
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 2:12 PM
To: linux-poweredge at dell.com
Subject: FYI: Oh how I wish, how I wish for PE a64 servers...

To all:

This thread is from a message to a Dell Service Warrenty support email
conversation.  I asked the tech to forward this message to the proper Dept.
Did it happen?  Who knows, but the more people that see it the better.
Perhaps i got a wee bit carried away; but others in forums near and far seem
to have found a liking to it and I've been told that it's an interesting
read, nonetheless...

Gables Engineering, Inc
gerson at gableseng.com


Debbie (Dell Warranty Parts Direct Program Specialist),

Apologies not necessary, typos happen all the time. The issue was that I had
previously sent several emails to your dept without so much as a peep. This
is the first time that anyone has responded about this issue. I did hear
through the Dell grapevine that Dell was re-organizing internally and I do
think it's working; especially given the speed at which this was resolved.
You and your team are to be commended. Thank you your promptness on the
matter - it's fully appreciated!

Now all I need is the ability to order Dell PowerEdge servers using AMD's
Opterons' processors and my view and relationship with Dell would indeed be
perfect in my eyes <see attached message>. If possible, could you forward
this message and it's attachment to whomever or whatever department handles
Customer Relations? We here at the Gables Engineering IT Dept would
certainly like our voice heard about this apparently sensitive issue - being
that we're long time Dell customers and have been requesting AMD Opteron
Dell Power Edge servers for some time now without a response; maybe the
'new' Dell has something to say about the matter. 

Here's the issue: We're on the brink of virtualizing everything; as thus we
actually need the benefits associated with AMD's Opteron line of processors
that Dell simply does not offer at the moment. I know for some time now that
whomever makes such decisions at Dell are constantly saying they're
'considering' them; so please inform the department in question to spare me
the party line about 'under consideration' as I'd prefer to receive nothing
at all than that bit of typical gibberish. But on to my story; kind Dell
Manager, because it is one that perhaps you have heard before; but it will
shed light on a typical Dell PowerEdge admin and what passes through said
mind concerning future Dell purchases of the Enterprise sort.

As a FYI, the attached message is one I sent a few days ago to a Dell
managed public forum (linux-poweredge at dell.com) - as a long time advocate of
Dell PE servers and as a current sys/net admin for a mid/large sized
company, I've been unfortunately forced to recently recommended HPQ
(HP-Compaq) ProLiant AMD 4-way Opteron systems for a Unix based (and several
other cases Windows based) database servers hosting groups of databases of
>100GB or more over my usual Dell recommendations. Why you ask? When the
following factors are concerned and factored into the IT equation; that
would indeed provide the answer to the question at hand:

(a) Overall Performance - AMD performance overall is agreed to be superior
to what Intel has to offer. Opterons use HT links per processor - adding
more processors does not increase bus contention as in Intel AGTL+ bus.
(b) Hard ROI numbers - current AMD solutions can be recycled with dual core
processors being a drop in replacement with current hardware. Intel has
nothing of the sort for current product offerings.
(c) Long term viability - AMD's use of HyperTransport means clusters have a
currently available path to a high speed serialized communications bus
between cluster nodes.
(d) Thermal / Electrical Properties - (TDP/TDW) - AMD Opteron actual heat
output is over 30% less than comparable Xeon processors in the similar
performance range. Cooling is quite a factor in data centers - and the costs
are considerably higher with Xeon units than with Opteron processors. Xeons
also consume much more electricity as a whole.
(e) The 64bit advantage - the initial selling point of Opteron processors is
last on my list and Intel now has 64 bit instructions as well. Unfortunately
it's widely known that Intel's so called EM64T is slower than AMD's 64bit
path all else being equal. The fact that it was copied to a great extent
from AMD's native instruction set shows the how well Intel has played in
it's new 'catch up' role. This was added to certain class Intel processors
as an afterthought; clearly seen performance-wise when 64bit Xeons are used
in 64bit mode as opposed to their Opteron counterparts. When dealing with
memory addresses over 4GB (current 32bit systems use Physical Address
Extension [PAE] to get to 64GB of addressability, but this method requires
excessive paging to disk and is supremely slow when compared to true 64bit
architectures) aka as in the use of any typical Database nowadays - this is
a vital component. this is primarily why Oracle/Sun combinations, or the so
called 'Big Tin' providers have been so successful until now - the 64bit
address limitation is 16TB - a far cry from the 32bit 4GB limit which is
laughable where databases are concerned.

About three to four years ago I used to recommended a 2/4 way P3-Xeon Dell
based solutions to various clients and IT staff; but that time has sadly
come and gone given the direction things have gone. Why? Due to what
seemingly seems like political lobbying ( some would deem 'payoff' the
proper word for it - I choose more conservative language) reasons within
Dell as not to offer AMD Opteron Power Edge products. Though my career
obviously demands me to be continually technically adept; updating what I
know constantly - I too take a persistent keen personal interest in what
technologies have to offer and where their headed to. Given that reference;
you can consider me both the typical geek and the corporate officer in
charge of recommending and implementing solutions for massive data centres.
Be what it may, many colleagues of differing companies come to me for advice
when certain projects roll their way - I can mentioned several firms of high
order which you'll immediately recognize - as its guaranteed that you have
their logo in your purse or wallet. I am humbled and gratified that many
come to me for advice where large projects involving meshed clusters, 4/8
way systems, SANs, and large databases are concerned. My advice is typically
listened to with very positive end results. I make it a point to be on top
of technology because it is not solely what I do for a living, but because
my love of science and progress of thus - it intrigues me how far we've
gotten since the beginnings of the x86 processor to where we are today. To
many this is merely a career - to be worked from 9-5 and shut off from there
on. I, however, cannot do this. IT and science is on my mind constantly -
there's a synergy there that is rarely seen in any other field. To be frank
I'm the audience companies should try to convince; which openly and
admittedly does include Dell. I should be convinced not with marketing
ploys; but with hard meaningful numbers that fit into the overall puzzle
that is IT. When a friend recently showed me certain obscure compile and run
times in a Powerpoint presentation which is the official party line at Dell
when the name Opteron comes up during a sales conference; I was saddened yet
further that such measures had to be resorted to in a faux attempt to
explain why one should purchase Dell Intel products over anything AMD.
Hiding the whole performance and ROI picture in order to confuse less
informed customers borders on the unethical. With what I saw Dell lost a few
credibility points in my book. Dell went from recommendations without
hesitation; to where I am now: very cautious with what I recommended when
asked for help in setting up long term, complex systems with planned future
growth and wherein the economies of scale apply. Herein, for the moment and
for the foreseeable future, Intel technology suite is lacking and is not
upgradeable; unless you count replacing an entire infrastructure
'upgradeable' . Mid sized companies cannot scrap their infrastructure just
because something isn't scalable a year or two down the line. That's exactly
what will occur if Intel products are used for the time being - upcoming
changes are simply too radical to have compatibility apply. They were not
planned, and thus interim products were released. These interim products
cannot be recommended not only because of their inferior performance, but
because of their exceedingly short expected lifecycle. 

On this subject matter I feel as if Dell is that proverbial genius pre-grad
student that's done everything right up until now - but seemingly wont go
the last mile to attain his/her PhD because his parents ( in this example
that would be Intel ) are paying for the entire ride. Obviously I, nor the
general public, know all the details of the Dell-Intel partnership other
than the fact that Dell gets new products from Intel faster than any other
tier one vendor. Some light was brought upon this relationship when Intel
was recently sued and by inference, Dell was included. Still, what this
partnership is also is doing; however, is causing me and many of my
colleagues in various rather large notable firms to re-evaluate tried and
trusted Dell solutions which have included standalone 2/4 way servers and
clusters of servers for heavy duty use for the likes of the AMD-offering
competition: HP ProLiant Opteron alternatives, IBM x-Series Opteron servers,
Sun SunFire servers, and in secondary fashion, Newisys Opteron servers.
These alternatives are both horizontally and vertically expandable as of
now; while the solutions afforded by Dell are not. It's as simple as that.
To state an example: the same 4 way Opteron server that can be bought today
can be upgraded to a 8 way server come the middle of the year with nothing
more than a BIOS update and a processor replacement. In comparison, Intel's
Enterprise dual core solution will (a) not be here for the Xeon front for
quite some time as their DC solutions will be presented on the desktop side
initially and (b) require a new logic board and chipset making all existing
Dell 2 and 4-way servers next to obsolete at the time of purchase -
especially where expandability is concerned. On the other hand; AMD Opteron
based servers will continue to be expandable using the same hardware in use
today by simply dropping in dual core (DC) chips in existing servers and
having their raw processing power capabilities exponentially grow. To add
insult to injury, AMD's HyperTransport bus scales exceedingly well - Intel's
AGTL+ does not. It's a widely known fact to all MP and DP users that 
AGTL+ adding
Intel processors to the AGTL+ bus slows down their operation by very
measurable margins. Case in point: Intel 4 way systems have to run at 400Mhz
QDR (100Mhz actual!) to function. AMD Opteron based systems have serial HT
links at operate at 1Ghz no matter how many CPU's you have. Result? A much
better ROI than any current or foreseeable Intel solution - and this
includes the expected Intel Vanderpool extensions for hardware
virtualization support; which AMD too supports in the form of their code
named Pacifica processor feature set.

As someone who's profession depends on proper up-to-date knowledge, seeing
what Intel has down the road doesn't inspire confidence in future technology
advances on their end either. I understand they're trying to catch up to AMD
and that the Dell-Intel partnership is beneficial to both parties. But what
I categorically won't do is waste my companies IT budget (or others based on
my recommendations) on platforms that will have no future other than yet
another lacking architectural change down the road in less than a years'
time which will require us to change systems yet again. As an example,
Intel's dual core solution is nothing more than two current p4 cores
connected by the same underlying aging technology. Even if you have the
latest Dell server, workstation, or computer you will not be able to use
these dual core products as the current batch of chipsets, the 915 and the
925, simply so not support such capability. This means that a new
motherboard is required with the soon to be released 945 and 955X chipsets.
The end message to all this is that I'm saddened that the financial benefits
Dell receives from thier partnetship with Intel has grossley outweighed
thier responsibility to thier loyal customers.

If you've gotten this far, thanks for listening to my rant about this,
whoever is on the other side. I'm almost certain it'll get forwarded to some
person who's heard it all before and can't do anything about it now because
of some contractual agreement. Ever thus, I'm a big believer in speaking out
when something is wrong - and I couldn't think of another case more
depressing than loosing out on both new and old clients because of such a
seemingly trivial matter like the one Dell is facing now by choosing not to
use tried and proven technology that would only add to their attractiveness
as a progressive company and furthermore add substantial benefits to their
already impressive portfolio of technology and corporate support in ways
indescribable in a mere email.

The case for AMD Opteron based Dell severs has been made again and again, so
I wont bother to go into the gory technical details more than I already
have, dear reader, which indeed have been reviewed and analyzed for years
now by various trusted and independent reviewers - I'm simply stating all of
this so my levels of frustration are heard and understood: frustration at
having to have to support two service contracts, two TAMs, two sets of fault
tolerant devices (spare parts, per se). Two of everything. Why? That
question, Dear Dell Exec, only you can answer.

Again - thanks for all your help!


Gerson J. Ricardo
Systems and Network Engineer
Gables Engineering, Inc
247 Greco Avenue ~ Coral Gables, FL 33146


From: US_WPD_Admin at dell.com [mailto:US_WPD_Admin at dell.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 1:47 PM
To: Ricardo, Gerson
Subject: RE: Premier Access Technician Certification ID - Gables Engineering


We do apologize for our typo error. We have corrected the spelling of your
name on your profile.

Thank you, 
Debbie McCormick 
Warranty Parts Direct Program Specialist 
1-800-433-9509 Option 4 
Fax: 512-283-2607 

The attached message was this:

Subject: FYI: Oh how I wish, how I wish for PE a64 servers....

..That they're were Power Edge servers based on Opteron processors. The
Intel AGTL+ bus just plain slows down the more processor you add to it. On
my fully populated system, a 4way XEON PE system, each processor ADDS
latency to certain transactions!! Furthermore, compiling even with EM64T
enabled and 16GB of RAM takes forever for a miserable 15GB database. Why, oh
why does my 4 way workstation Opteron system with just 8GB of RAM compile
the *same* database on the same OS nearly twice as fast on AMD CPU's that
are over 1060Mhz slower *per CPU*?

<Sigh> Please forward this email to Mr. Rollins and the dev team as yet
*another* supposedly non-existent Dell customer that's requesting Dell
branded AMD solutions. Have them look us up - we buy a number of servers per
quarter. Now that we're going to be virtualizing we were looking for a
powerhouse systems (4 way 64GB, expandable FC HBA's for a SAN).
Unfortunately Dell has been taken off the list for 4way 64bit systems from
the get go. We're thinking of just using my workstation for the database
compiles as returning the four way PE Xeon. Talk about a fly in the
otherwise perfect ointment. I greatly dislike when agreements between
companies hurt customers.


Gerson Ricardo
Gables Engineer
Gales Engineering, Inc.


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