Feeds

Intel: tweak Nehalem's nobs to hit high notes

"Gross degradation" in a box

High performance access to file storage

Despite a tightened budget, Intel's information chief, Diane Bryant, claims the company saved $19 million by upgrading its older servers this year rather than deferring a hardware refresh until 2010.

Chipzilla's pitch for its Nehalem-based chips during a year when most IT budgets are pancake flat is focused squarely on demonstrating claims of cost-saving and consolidation. As such, Intel has trotted itself and others out as an examples for the cause.

Intel bases its $19m savings claim on utility costs, network maintenance, and data center infrastructure expenses, had the company decided to defect from its standard four-year server refresh policy due to 2009 budget restraints. The company said testing showed it could achieve a 10:1 consolidation ratio by replacing four-year-old servers based on single-core processors with new Xeon 5500 series chips.

The sentiments were echoed today in San Francisco with Intel hosting a talk with two US firms that say they've made a short return on investment with their own deployments of Nehalem. One is a privately-held trading group, Group One Trading, and the other compute outsourcing firm, R Systems.

While the talk was somewhat typical to what you'd expect for such a setup - Intel rah rah rah - one point that did stand out was the need to tinker with Nehalem settings before improvements often can be seen.

Back in June, Facebook's veep of technical operations Jonathan Heiliger was lamenting that both AMD and IBM's latest chip designs aren't bringing his company the performance gains as advertised. We suspected the lack of results were more a result of a heavily customized Facebook stack that uses PHP and MySQL than hardware.

Terence Judkins, director of systems at Group One Trading, recalls a similar situation on his company's initial tests with Nehalem.

"When we first got Nehalem - the first server we got off the shelf - we did not get good results out of it. In fact, we saw gross degradation over the previous 5400 series," Judkins said.

After scrutinizing the drop in performance, he said his team realized they had hyperthreading on by default and had the power profile set for low power utilization.

"What happens in the market place is, the market will suddenly spike up, and there's no time for a core to get up to maximum performance. So by downclocking those CPUs, we saw a performance hit," Judkins said.

"When we set power performance to maximum and turned off hyperthreading, we saw a little over 200 per cent performance increase in our trading software. It was a world of difference by just a few settings. So maybe Facebook needs to do some of their own analysis on how they're deriving their business metrics."

Intel's Bryant concurred that Judkins' experience was "spot on," saying Intel's electronic design automation (EDA) software apps are heavily single-threaded.

"There's enough knobs with Nehalem where you can get a performance pop, but you have to fit the knobs to get the benefit," she said.

Intel's past report on its saving by moving ahead with its 2009 server refresh can be found here. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Seagate brings out 6TB HDD, did not need NO STEENKIN' SHINGLES
Or helium filling either, according to reports
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
Bored with trading oil and gold? Why not flog some CLOUD servers?
Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans cloud spot exchange
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.