back to article Server makers love Intel Xeons (true) - but not the price tag

Amazon, Google and other giant cloud companies are buying server CPUs in huge numbers, helping to increase global shipments in 2016 for x86 and ARM server class microprocessor by 3.5 per cent to 22.9 million shipments. Strong demand means rising average selling prices (ASPs) - up 25 per cent between 2010 and 2015 - and revenue …

  1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

    Competition

    AMD is essentially broke, and ARM can only compete in very specific scenarios... so I don-t see how we can see competition... IBM? no, they just don't care, expect Power (not the fabs, those are already gone) to be sold to lenovo in the not so distant future..

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Competition

      It's price per server "transaction", not raw CPU power or CPU price.

      If two ARM servers give similar performance to one Intel but cost less to buy and less to run ...

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Competition

      AMD has been essentially broke for most of the past 20 years, but that hasn't stopped them competing. Intel always backed off a bit when AMD was under stress because they needed to keep them around so they could claim they have competition.

      They probably still need them around since the FTC may consider "server CPUs" to be a relevant market, and the pittance produced by IBM and Oracle (for their own use only) is a drop in the bucket - far less of the total market share than AMD has historically had in desktop CPUs.

      If it weren't for server CPUs I think Intel could drop their prices for a year or two and kill AMD without issue, since they can likely argue successfully that desktop, laptop and mobile CPUs constitute a single relevant market. They can point to the obvious cannibalization of PCs by mobile devices in the past five years.

  2. Dave K Silver badge

    It's a pity. I remember fondly 10 years ago when Opteron was a very credible and in many ways superior alternative to Intel's old NetBurst Xeons.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Why Opteron (briefly) succeeded

      It was better than Intel's offerings at the time it came out, but AMD only had the advantage over Intel because of two huge Intel mistakes.

      One, they pursued the dead end Netburst architecture, believing they could goose it up to 10 GHz by the end of the decade. They probably could have (by exposing the double pumped pipeline this would have been rather easy, in fact) but it turns out almost no one wants PCs with 200 watt CPUs. Their engineers obviously understood the relationship between frequency and power, so clearly they must have thought that the curve of ever increasing power demand for desktop CPUs that had held for 20 years would continue to hold. Perhaps if CPUs weren't "fast enough" for most people it would have continued, but once they were people valued quiet for desktops and battery life for laptops far more than Intel's engineers had figured.

      Two, they purposefully held back offering a 64 bit ISA for x86, because they hoped to keep x86 32 bit only and force everyone to their proprietary Itanium CPUs over a decade's time as lower and lower end markets hit the 2GB/4GB limit and needed to go 64 bit. They assumed AMD could never get any support or backing if they developed their own 64 bit x86 ISA, similar to how their attempts at SIMD instructions like 3DNow! went nowhere and AMD was eventually forced to license MMX and SSE. If they hadn't make the concurrent mistake with Netburst, maybe that would have held true, and we'd all be using Itaniums right now.

      When Microsoft announced support for AMD64, Intel was caught off guard since they hadn't notified them of this in advance. Itanium never recovered, and Intel was forced to be compatible with AMD's instruction set for once.

      Interestingly, Hans De Vries discovered evidence of 64 bit support in Intel x86 CPUs that predated the release of AMD64. Perhaps there was a war in Intel between the x86 people and the Itanium people and the x86 people put it in hoping to get management approval to enable it, but it never was and nothing about it was ever published.

  3. jason 7 Silver badge

    Wait three years...

    ...then pick them up on Ebay.

  4. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    It's a case of ....

    I'd go for AMD if it was an option. But when pretty much no-body makes off-the-self servers using AMD chips then what choice do you have? (seriously, no web farm that I came across while looking for a new server would touch AMD chips unless you rented a rack from them and managed it yourself)

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: It's a case of ....

      "But when pretty much no-body makes off-the-self servers using AMD chips then what choice do you have?"

      And that has a lot to do with AMD's chips being cheaper but having significantly higher power consumption compared to the Intel equivalent. TOC ends up being higher and that's a bigger deal in a server farm than CapEx.

  5. Dadmin
    Go

    Make Servers, Not War!

    You can x64 your x86 all the live-long day, but in the end it's still x86 with all the baggage and compatibilities to the old-world it drags or brings. More ARMs to my data centers, please! They are most welcome.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Make Servers, Not War!

      "but in the end it's still x86 with all the baggage and compatibilities to the old-world it drags or brings."

      What matters is what it does and how much power it consumes whilst doing so, not what baggage it brings.

      This is why Intel have beaten AMD in the datacenter for some time (The only reason I have AMD compute servers is because at the time it was the only way to get more cores in the box)

      If ARM beats Intel on this then it will rapidly take over for non compute-centric applications. The problem is that as ARM has gotten faster its power consumption and purchase price has approached the low end Xeons for the same performance as those low-end Xeons.

      Where ARM might win is if a few hundred cores could be put into the box, but that's not happening either (yet).

  6. Roj Blake Silver badge

    IDC Predictions

    Haven't IDC been predicting that ARM server CPUs will be taking off in the next year or so for about four years now?

  7. Robert Jenkins

    AMD are still fighting!

    AMD is still not doing too badly.

    This Passmark results page is interesting, though it very quickly became difficult to find for some odd reason...

    https://www.cpubenchmark.net/multi_cpu_pt7.html

    AMD at the top, with more cores but for less money.

    And Cray seem to think they are OK - the Oak Ridge XK7 has over 18,000 Opterons.

    https://www.olcf.ornl.gov/computing-resources/titan-cray-xk7/

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