During the Intel Xeon Scalable release (Skylake-SP) in 2017, we covered the new naming conventions. Out were the Xeon E5 and Xeon E7 designations and in rushed the precious metals of Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. You can read more about the different names here Intel Xeon Scalable Processor Family: Platinum Gold Silver Bronze Naming Conventions. During the process, the high-end “E7” line was essentially merged into the same line as the company’s mainstream processors. At a platform level, it is great for users as it means one can use the same socket to scale from one to eight processors. From a marketing standpoint, the Intel Xeon Platinum CPUs are the number one item competitors focus on. nvidia quadro m2000
We want our readers to be well informed about what they read and share why we have been taking a stance against using Intel Xeon Platinum 8100 series CPUs in many of our comparisons.
Why Intel Xeon Platinum is a Marketing Headache
You can run a 205W 28C/ 56T Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 CPU in most single-socket servers without issue. Frankly, this is not something you want to do. The Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 SKUs is meant for maximizing per socket performance for programs with high-cost per socket licensing and for systems that need to go beyond dual socket configurations. The Intel Xeon Platinum line scales to 8 CPUs in a single server. In a quad socket server, Intel Xeon Platinum 8100 (and Gold 6100) CPUs have a direct link to the other three CPUs in a server
The problem is that the Intel Xeon Platinum series is priced for 4 socket and 8 socket configurations where the systems are much more costly, but also designed to be discounted more heavily. The CPUs still function in dual socket servers so we have review systems such as our Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 Review and Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Review where Dell EMC sends us dual-socket servers with two Platinum 8180’s. This is because the company wants to ensure its systems perform well. We understand this posture but it has become a marketing headache for Intel.
Now that there are alternative CPUs in the market such as the AMD EPYC 7001 and Cavium ThunderX2, that offer 32 cores per socket, more than the Platinum 8180’s 28, the comparison is natural as Intel’s top offering in the dual socket segment. Sure, the 8180’s are intended for different markets, but that does not stop the comparisons from rolling in.
An easy task is to take a benchmark and the CPU’s list price and arrive at a performance per dollar calculation. Perhaps intra-family this makes some sense addressing initial purchase prices since you could use the same system for the different SKUs or see pricing methodologies, but architecture-to-architecture it simply does not work. This is doubly true for the Intel Xeon Platinum range since you get results like this:
We covered this in our piece Intel Xeon Platinum 8158 v Intel Xeon Gold 6136 Differences. What you can see above is the impact of a “Platinum” SKU with a list price of $7007 and a Gold 6136 with a list price of $2460. The CPUs have essentially the same clock speeds, cores, and cache which drives the similar performance levels. This is true across different workloads including AVX-512.
Commercially, one of the only reasons to pick the Platinum 8158 over the Gold 6136 is if you want to scale to 8 sockets. Otherwise, you get over 2.8x the performance per dollar with the Gold SKU over the Platinum SKU. Even the HPC segment, primarily two CPUs per node, overwhelmingly pick the more cost-effective Xeon Gold over Xeon Platinum as we showed in our recent Top500 June 2018 Edition New Systems Analysis.