If you examine the CPU industry and ask where the big money is, you have to look at the server and datacenter market. Ever since the Opteron days, AMD's market share has been rounded to zero percent, and with its first generation of EPYC processors using its new Zen microarchitecture, that number skipped up a small handful of points, but everyone has been waiting with bated breath for the second swing at the ball. AMD's Rome platform solves the concerns that first gen Naples had, plus this CPU family is designed to do many things: a new CPU microarchitecture on 7nm, offer up to 64 cores, offer 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0, offer 8 memory channels, and offer a unified memory architecture based on chiplets. Today marks the launch of Rome, and we have some of our own data to share on its performance.

Review edited by Dr. Ian Cutress

First Boot

Sixty-four cores. Each core with an improved Zen 2 core, offering ~15% better IPC performance than Naples (as tested in our consumer CPU review), and doubled AVX2/FP performance. The chip has a total of 256 MB of L3 cache, and 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes. AMD's second generation EPYC, in this case the EPYC 7742, is a behemoth.

Boot to BIOS, check the node information.

[Note: That 1500 mV reading in the screenshot is the same reading we see on consumer Ryzen platforms; it seems to be the non-DVFS voltage as listed in the firmware, but isn't actually observed]

It is clear that the raw specifications of our new Rome CPU is some of the most impressive on the market. The question then goes to whether or not this is the the new fastest server chip on the market - a claim that AMD is putting all its weight behind. If this is the new fastest CPU on the market, the question then becomes 'by how much?', and 'how much does it cost?'.

I have been covering server CPUs since the launch of the Opteron in 2003, but this is nothing like I have seen before: a competitive core and twice as much of them on a chip than what the competition (Intel, Cavium, even IBM) can offer. To quote AMD's SVP of its Enterprise division, Forrest Norrod

"We designed this part to compete with Ice Lake, expecting to make some headway on single threaded performance. We did not expect to be facing re-warmed Skylake instead. This is going to be one of the highlights of our careers"

Self-confidence is at all times high at AMD, and on paper it would appear to be warranted. The new Rome server CPUs have improved core IPC, a doubling of the core count at the high end, and it is using a new manufacturing process (7 nm) technology in one swoop. Typically we see a server company do one of those things at a time, not all three. It is indeed a big risk to take, and the potential to be exciting if everything falls into place. 

To put this into perspective: promising up to 2x FP performance, 2x cores, and a new process technology would have sounded so odd a few years ago. At the tail end of the Opteron days, just 4-5 years ago, Intel's best CPUs were up to three times faster. At the time, there was little to no reason whatsoever to buy a server with AMD Opterons. Two years ago, EPYC got AMD back into the server market, but although the performance per dollar ratio was a lot better than Intel's, it was not a complete victory. Not only was AMD was still trailing in database performance and AVX/FP performance, but partners and OEMs were also reluctant to partner with the company without a proven product.

So now that AMD has proven its worth with Naples, and AMD promising more than double the deployed designs of Rome with a very quick ramp to customers, we have to compare the old to the new. For the launch of the new hardware, AMD provided us with a dual EPYC 7742 system from Quanta, featuring two 64-core CPUs.

Zen 2 and Rome: SMILE For Performance


View All Comments

  • quorm - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Is it possible you haven't heard of docker? Reply
  • abufrejoval - Sunday, August 11, 2019 - link

    or OpenVZ/Virtuozzo or quite simply cgroups. Can even nest them, including with VMs. Reply
  • DillholeMcRib - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    destruction … Intel sat on their proverbial hands too long. It's over. Reply
  • crotach - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    Bye Intel!! Reply
  • AnonCPU - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    The gain in hmmer on EPYC with GCC8 is not due to TAGE predictor.
    Hmmer gains a lot on EPYC only because of GCC8.
    GCC8 vectorizer has been improved in GCC8 and hmmer gets vectorized heavily while it was not the case for GCC7. The same run on an Intel machine would have shown the same kind of improvement.
  • JohanAnandtech - Sunday, August 11, 2019 - link

    Thanks, do you have a source for that? Interested in learning more! Reply
  • AnonCPU - Monday, August 12, 2019 - link

    That should be due to the improvements on loop distribution:

    "The classic loop nest optimization pass -ftree-loop-distribution has been improved and enabled by default at -O3 and above. It supports loop nest distribution in some restricted scenarios;"

    There are also some references here in what was missing for hmmer vectorization in GCC some years ago:

    And a page where you can see that LLVM was missing (at least in 2015) a good loop distribution algo useful for hmmer:

  • AnonCPU - Monday, August 12, 2019 - link

    And more:
  • just4U - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    I guess the question to ask now is can they churn these puppies out like no tomorrow? Is the demand there? What about other Hardware? Motherboards and the like..

    Do they have 100 000 of these ready to go? The window of opportunity for AMD is always fleeting.. and if their going to capitalize on this they need to be able to put the product out there.
  • name99 - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    No obvious reason why not. The chiplets are not large and TSMC ships 200 million Apple chips a year on essentially the same process. So yields should be there.
    Manufacturing the chiplet assembly also doesn't look any different from the Naples assembly (details differ, yes, but no new envelopes being pushed: no much higher frequency signals or denser traces -- the flip side to that is that there's scope there for some optimization come Milan...)

    So it seems like there is nothing to obviously hold them back...

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