The story behind the high-end Xeon E7 has been an uninterrupted triumphal march for the past 5 years: Intel's most expensive Xeon beats Oracle servers - which cost a magnitude more -  silly, and offers much better performance per watt/dollar than the massive IBM POWER servers.  Each time a new generation of quad/octal socket Xeons is born, Intel increases the core count, RAS features, and performance per core while charging more for the top SKUs. Each time that price increases is justified, as the total cost of a similar RISC server is a factor more than an Xeon E7 server. From the Intel side, this new generation based upon the Haswell core is no different: more cores (18 vs 15), better RAS, slightly more performance per core and ... higher prices. 

However, before you close this tab of your browser, know that even this high-end market is getting (more) exciting. Yes, Intel is correct in that the market momentum is still very much in favor of themselves and thus x86. 

No less than 98% of the server shipments have been "Intel inside". No less than 92-94% of the four socket and higher servers contain Intel Xeons.  From the revenue side, the RISC based systems are still good for slightly less than 20% of the $49 Billion (per year) server market*.  Oracle still commands about 4% (+/- $2 Billion), but has been in a steady decline. IBM's POWER based servers are good for about 12-15% (including mainframes) or $6-7 Billion depending on who you ask (*).  

It is however not game over (yet?) for IBM. The big news of the past months is that IBM has sold its x86 server division to Lenovo. As a result, Big Blue finally throw its enormous weight behind the homegrown POWER chips. Instead of a confusing and half heartly "we will sell you x86 and Itanium too" message, we now get the "time to switch over to OpenPOWER" message. IBM spent $1 billion to encourage ISVs to port x86-linux applications to the Power Linux platform.  IBM also opened up its hardware: since late 2013, the OpenPower Foundation has been growing quickly with Wistron (ODM), Tyan and Google building hardware on top of the Power chips. The OpenPOWER Foundation now has 113 members, and lots of OpenPower servers are being designed and build. Timothy Green of the Motley fool believes OpenPower will threaten Intel's server hegemony in the largest server market, China.   

But enough of that. This is Anandtech, and here we quantify claims instead of just rambling about changing markets. What has Intel cooked up and how does it stack up to the competion? Let's find out.

(*) Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker, 2014Q1, May 2014, Vendor Revenue Share

The New Xeon E7v3
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  • DanNeely - Friday, May 8, 2015 - link

    Intel's 94% market share is still only ~184k systems. That's tiny compared to the mainstream x86 market; and doesn't give a lot of (budgetary) room to make radical changes to CPU vs just scaling shared designs to a huger layout.
  • theeldest - Friday, May 8, 2015 - link

    184k for 4S systems. The number of 2S systems *greatly* outnumbers the 184k.
  • Samus - Sunday, May 10, 2015 - link

    by 100 orders of magnitude, easily.

    2S systems are everywhere these days, I picked up a Lenovo 2S Xeon system for $600 NEW (driveless, 4GB RAM) from CDW.

    4S, on the other hand, is considerably more rare and starts at many thousands, even with 1 CPU included.
  • erple2 - Sunday, May 10, 2015 - link

    Well, maybe 2 orders of magnitude. 100 orders of magnitude would imply, based on the 184k 4S systems, more 2S systems than atoms in the universe. Ok, I made that up, I don't know how many atoms are in the universe, but 10^100 is a really big number. Well, 10^105, if we assume 184k 4S systems.

    I think you meant 2 orders of magnitude.
  • mapesdhs - Sunday, May 10, 2015 - link

    Yeah, that made me smile too, but we know what he meant. ;)
  • evolucion8 - Monday, May 11, 2015 - link

    That would be right if Intel cores are wide enough which aren't compared to IBM. For example, according to this review, enabling two way SMT boosted the performace to 45% and adding two more threads added 30% more performance. On the other hand, enabling two way SMT on the latest i7 architecture can only go up to 30% on the best case scenario.
  • chris471 - Friday, May 8, 2015 - link

    Great article, and I'm looking forward to see more Power systems.

    I would have loved to see additional benchmarks with gcc flags -march=native -Ofast. Should not change stream triad results, but I think 7zip might profit more on Power than on Xeon. Most software is not affected by the implied -ffast-math.
  • close - Friday, May 8, 2015 - link

    It reminds me of the time when Apple gave up on PowerPC in mobiles because the new G5s were absolute power guzzlers and made space heaters jealous. And then gave up completely and switched to Intel because the 2 dual core PowerPC 970MP CPUs at 2.5GHz managed to pull 250W of power and needed liquid cooling to be manageable.

    IBM is learning nothing from past mistakes. They couldn't adapt to what the market wanted and the more nimble competition was delivering 25-30 years ago when fighting Microsoft, it already lost business to Intel (which is actually only nimble by comparison), and it's still doing business and building hardware like we're back in the '70s mainframe age.
  • name99 - Friday, May 8, 2015 - link

    You are assuming that the markets IBM sells into care about the things you appear to care about (in particular CPU performance per watt). This is a VERY dubious assumption.
    The HPC users MAY care (but I'd need to see evidence of that). For the business users, the cost of the software running on these systems dwarfs the lifetime cost of their electricity.
  • SuperVeloce - Saturday, May 9, 2015 - link

    They surely care. Why wouldn't they. A whole server rack or many of them in fact do use quite a bit of power. And cooling the server room is very expensive.

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