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

  • cyberguyz - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    I was also a senior software engineer (retired after 30 years) supporting mostly fortune 1000 companies. I have to tell you that the the vast majority ones I have dealt with use a mixed server environment of Windows server, Linux (RHEL), zLinux, and AIX along with Java as the language of choice along with Javascript as the web interface language. This experience comes from digging through their heap and system dumps, poring through thousands of lines of server source code and building/releasing middleware server development software for those companies. Except for those on zLinux the rest are on multiprocessor x86 systems. Reply
  • Null666666 - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    Hardly, but then what do I know, only been tuing corporate large scale databases since 91..

    Linux is for any scale any size.

    Friends don't let friends do windows. Admittedly, it's gotten better. But for high available you just can't do "the windows solution", power off power on.
  • sleepeeg3 - Friday, August 9, 2019 - link

    Um... is your background in Windows Server? That might skew your bias. Reply
  • eek2121 - Saturday, August 10, 2019 - link

    This is 100% false, even Microsoft themselves has stated as much. Linux owns the internet. Windows owns the office. Reply
  • Vatharian - Saturday, August 17, 2019 - link

    Not every server in existence is meant to carry and forward mails from accounting to marketing. Most of IT in non-IT focused enterprises are indeed meant as office backend will run WS, but virtually every single workhorse beside that will be Linux running. Between hosting, compute and big data Windows has no place simply because of too high overhead, no flexibility on low level optimization, and extremely high cost of initial driver development. I.e. hardware my company makes (specialized accelerators) has 3x time to market on Windows platform. We now shift to FPGA, and we dropped support for Windows, because of bugs that our vendor can't fix for months. Not to mention, that some of our clients run IBM, therefore, Linux. Reply
  • healthymosquito - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    Being part of a 10 figure company's infrastructure team, I can say that what you are saying it patently false for electronics Manufacturing. Sure Windows has most of the office desktops, but all engineer stations, as well as all heavy lifting servers in my corp run Linux globally, That isn't counting our 100% Linux AWS and Google Cloud presense. Having worked in hosting recently as a side gig, Web presence for Windows is just as dismal. No one is paying money for an IIS server or MSQL to run websites. Windows numbers on the Internet are extremely low. Reply
  • nobodyblog - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Windows is used in military..
    Additionally, about Java, I doubt it is as good as .Net even in 2019. And Linux is norm in Big Companies OR embedded market only. Medium/small size are all on Windows - FACT. Additionally, there is no real Antivirus for Linux, and opensource softwares aren't very reliable..

  • Arnulf - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Antivirus? How old are you?

    I work for a small/medium business (8 figures in EUR) and we have same usage profile as described by Deshi - Linux is running all our key stuff while we have a lone Windows server for AD and related crap.
  • FreckledTrout - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Say what no Antivirus for Linux? Two I know of in use at corporations right now are ESET and Trendmicro. Reply
  • zmatt - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Completely baseless claims. I have worked large scale government and military IT and Windows servers are the most common by far. There were some Linux but they we a minority. Where you see Linux thrive in servers is cloud providers and in companies that provide primarily web based products. Microsoft even offers their own Linux options through Azure, and everyone knows about AWS and their own totally-not-a-ripoff-of-RHEL distro. But Cloud infrastructure doesn't have to be Windows, people dont use it for the same thing usually.

    Linux still doesn't have an equivalent to Active Directory and that has been in my experience one of the largest infrastructure uses in self hosted environments. Domain controllers and servers that support them made up and continue to make up the bulk. Until Linux has a competitor to it (and I doubt they will because most Linux devs refuse to "copy" anything Microsoft does) then Windows servers will stick around.

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