Lemons or Le Mans: Why Not Using A Processor-Optimized System Will Leave You Underwhelmed

An Impractical Approach

Would you ever think that a smart car could beat a souped-up sports car on a quarter-mile race track? You could, by modifying the tiny smart car with an over-powered engine packed into its lightweight frame. This is a clever trick to get maximum power over a short distance. However, would you ever race one of these cars on an F1 track? Or tow a boat? Or take kids to swim practice?

Although these mental images are entertaining, a super-powered smart car does not make a useful or effective value prop for these activities. Think of the stress the engine would put on the brakes, chassis, and steering. Think of the maintenance, component upgrades, and labor that are required to operate such a car.

A Pragmatic Approach

Servers are designed and built in the same way – for specific workloads. They are not the sum of their individual components. Each piece of hardware must be optimized to work with other hardware and firmware to effectively tackle specific workloads. A powerful component without the right support does not perform at its full potential.

If you take the engine of a race car and install it into the frame of a midsized sedan there will be significant performance left on the table. This is exactly the case with dropping-in the 2nd Gen AMD EPYC processor (code named Rome) into a server that is designed for the 1st Gen AMD EPYC processor (code named Naples).

This makes one wonder about the release of AMD’s 2nd generation EPYC CPU. How will you effectively leverage this technology? Does a drop-in make technical or business sense, especially when comparing to a Rome-optimized system?

Technical Sense

If you’ve waited in line to check out at a retail supercenter – you experienced how the throughput of a system is dependent on the slowest part. This may induce anxiety when thinking about replacing old CPUs with new, advanced ones. By including a Rome processor on a Naples-based platform, you will experience lower performance, decreased capabilities, slower memory speeds, subpar networking, and limited platform scalability.[1] Your memory and the input/output latency will slow your AMD 2nd generation EPYC CPU with 64 cores like a boy scout loaded with a fridge worth of food plus his family’s collection of kitchenware.

Business Sense

Using a server effectively also has business and financial implications. Cobbling systems can become labor intensive when a rack goes down because of an aged component. Operating costs can be 10 times higher in years 4 through 6 than the initial procurement cost of the server.[2] Refreshing your servers around the three-year mark is shown to reduce overall costs.[3] This is just the cost of operations. This does not account for the better outcomes and innovative solutions your employees will create, when they are free to pursue non-maintenance tasks.

Returning to the original analogy, one size does NOT fit all.[4] The Toyota Prius could tow a boat. But why not use an appropriate car or truck? Matching the right workload with the right server will increase performance, automate management, and improve security (i.e., Dell EMC PowerEdge Servers with 2nd generation of AMD EPYC). This includes:

  • More NVMe for better virtualization and software-defined solutions
  • Increased cores per socket for hyper-converged infrastructure and virtual machines
  • Lower latency, Gen 4 PCIe, with GPU slots for data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning

Red Light, Green Light, Go!

Watching a smart car beat a Mustang can be entertaining, but is it a pragmatic solution for towing boats or everyday commuting? Should you drop-in a 2nd generation AMD EPYC chip into a Naples-based server? We all get excited when a new version of a technology we love is introduced. The hardest part is waiting! Dell EMC PowerEdge is releasing a portfolio of servers that are designed and optimized to leverage the full capabilities of the 2nd generation AMD EPYC processor.

Prefer and be patient for sustained super-performance over a souped-up server with power left on the table.

[1] https://www.dellemc.com/resources/en-us/asset/analyst-reports/products/servers/idc-infobrief-amd-rome-optimized-platforms.pdf

[2] https://www.dellemc.com/resources/en-us/asset/analyst-reports/products/servers/idc-infobrief-amd-rome-optimized-platforms.pdf

[3] https://blog.dellemc.com/en-us/the-6-myths-about-servers-that-almost-everyone-believes/

[4] https://blog.dellemc.com/en-us/name-brand-or-commodity-server-research-reveals-answer/