On Tuesday, Intel officially released its new 5500 series of Xeon processors (which is the two-socket server version of the Core i7 that was introduced last fall). To coincide with this release, most of the major hardware vendors have released new model servers that use this new CPU.
There were also several new TPC-E benchmark submissions from vendors such as Dell, Fujitsu, and IBM, that show amazing results on the price/performance ratio charts. The top spot (as of this writing) is owned by a new Dell PowerEdge T610, which actually achieved a better score than a Dell PowerEdge R900 four-socket server.
The PowerEdge T610 (which has two 2.93GHz Xeon X5570 and 96GB of RAM) got a 766.47 tpsE score, while the PowerEdge R900 (which has four 2.66GHz Xeon X7460 and 64GB of RAM) got a 671.35 tpsE score.
PowerEdge T610 766.47 tpsE two sockets, 8 cores, 16 threads, 2.93GHz Xeon X5570 “Nehalem-EP”
PowerEdge R900 671.35 tpsE four sockets, 24 cores, 24 threads, 2.66GHz Xeon X7460 “Dunnington”
PowerEdge 2900 III 295.27 tpsE two sockets, 8 cores, 8 threads, 3.16GHz Xeon X5460 “Harpertown”
I have several observations about this. First, it is very interesting that all of the vendors that have submitted new TPC-E benchmarks with Nehalem-EP systems have enabled hyper-threading (which reinforces my idea that hyper-threading works much better with SQL Server 2008 with this CPU than it did with old Pentium 4 based CPUs).
Second, all of the vendors are using 64-bit Windows Server 2008 along with 64-bit SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition. This shows that 64-bit is the way to go for large workloads. I am curious why Dell chose a T610 (which only has 12 memory slots) instead of a T710 (which has 18 memory slots). Choosing the T610 forced them to use 8GB DDR3 RAM sticks, which are still frightfully expensive compared to the 4GB DDR3 RAM stick they could have used with the T710, (assuming that 72GB of RAM would have been enough).
The overall conclusion is that you can think seriously about replacing older four-socket database servers with Nehalem-EP based two socket database servers, and realize huge savings on SQL Server processor licenses and power usage, with an increase in performance.
For example, I have a PowerEdge 6800 with four 3.4GHz Xeon 7140M and 64GB of RAM that originally cost about $30K about two years ago. I could replace that server with a PowerEdge T710 with two 2.93GHz Xeon X5570 and 72GB of RAM, which will cost less than $10K. This would give me about four times the OLTP capacity, with significantly better response times, while using about 70% less power and two fewer SQL Server licenses, all at 1/3 of the hardware cost.