Sizing Things Up: Specifications Compared

Thirty-two high-IPC cores in one package sounds promising. But how does the best ThunderX2 compare to what AMD, Qualcomm and Intel have to offer? In the table below we compare the high level specifications of several top server SKUs.

Comparison of Major Server SKUs Cavium
Centriq 2460
Xeon 8176
Xeon 6148
EPYC 7601
Process Technology TSMC
16 nm
10 nm
14 nm
14 nm
Global Foundries
14 nm
Cores 32
Ring bus
Ring bus
4 dies x 8 cores
Threads 128 48 56 40 64
Max. number of sockets 2 1 8 4 2
Base Frequency 2.2 GHz 2.2 GHz 2.2 GHz 2.4 GHz 2.2 GHz
Turbo Frequency 2.5 GHz 2.6 GHz 3.8 GHz 3.7 GHz 3.2 GHz
L3 Cache 32 MB 60 MB 38.5 MB 27.5 MB 8x8 MB
DRAM 8-Channel
PCIe 3.0 lanes 56 32 48 48 128
TDP 180W 120 W 165W 150W  180W
Price $1795 $1995 $8719 $3072 $4200

Astute readers will quickly remark that Intel's top of the line CPU is the Xeon Platinum 8180. However that SKU with its 205W TDP and $10k+ price tage is not comparable at all to any CPU in the list. We are already going out on a limb by including the 8176, which we feel belongs in this list of maximum core/thread count SKUs. In fact, as we will see further, Cavium positions the Cavium 9980 as "comparable" to the Xeon Platinum 8164, which is essentially the same part as the 8176 but with slightly lower clockspeeds.

However, it terms of performance per dollar, Cavium typically compares their flagship 9980 to the Intel Xeon Gold 6148, against which the pricing of Cavium's CPU is very aggressive. Many of Cavium's benchmarks claim that the fastest ThunderX2 is 30% to 40% ahead of the Xeon 6148, all the while Cavium's offering comes in at $1300 less. That aggressive pricing might explain the increasingly persistent rumors that Qualcomm is not going to enter the server market after all.

When looking at the table above, you can already see some important differences between the contenders. Intel seems to have the most advanced core topology and the highest turbo clockspeed. Meanwhile Qualcomm has the best chances when it comes to performance per watt, and has already published some benchmarking data that underlines this advantage.

Similar to AMD's EPYC, Cavium's ThunderX2 is likely to shine in the "sparse matrix" HPC market. This is thanks to its 33% greater theoretical memory bandwidth and a high core/thread count. However as we've seen in the case of AMD's design, EPYC's L3-cache is slow once you need data that is not in the local 8 MB cache slice. The ThunderX2, by comparison, is a lot more sophisticated with a dual ring architecture, which seems to be similar to the ring architecture of the Xeon v4 (Broadwell-EP). According to Cavium, this ring structure is able to offer up to 6 TB/s of bandwidth and is non-blocking.

This ring architecture is connected to Cavium's Coherent Processor Interconnect (CCPI2 - at the top of the picture), which runs at 600 Gb/sec. This interconnect links the two sockets/NUMA nodes. Also connected to the ring are the SoC's 56 PCIe 3.0 lanes, which Cavium allocates among 14 PCIe "controllers.". These 14 controllers can, in turn, be bifurcated down to x4 or x1 as you can see below.

SR-IOV, which is important for I/O virtualization (Xen and KVM), is also supported.

ThunderX2: Cavium Is Back Cavium's "New" Core: Vulcan
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • imaheadcase - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    I really think Anandtech needs to branch into different websites. Its very strange and unappealing to certain users to have business/consumer/random reviews/phone info all bunched together.

    Ever since anand actually left it really did venture into more a business/insider based website with random stuff thrown in. It is in no way a bad thing, its just like this review for instance would not appeal to %95 of readers normally. Everyone likes technology naturally that comes to this website, but its a fine line between talking about high end server components that are out of reach to people who just read the article on the mini-itx gaming motherboard. lol
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    You're always free to skip articles, nobody's forcing you to read it.
  • boeush - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    I guess he'd prefer the site content to be grouped in some manner roughly mirroring market segmentation. For instance: consumer, professional, enterprise, exotic/HPC. As opposed to jumbling everything together. Personally, I don't mind - but then, I'm not known for obsessive-compulsive organizing, either :)
  • BurntMyBacon - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    Given the large differences in tech, focus, needs, and trends, I wouldn't mind breaking out Phones and perhaps servers into their own sections. I think there is more than enough overlap to keep consumer and professional desktop/laptop/workstation together, but that is entirely up to how deeply you want to divide things up. On the other hand, you'll want all of it to show up on the front page in some form, or it'll look like the site doesn't have much activity. Perhaps separate pipelines for each category could work. That all said, I don't really mind just skipping over articles that don't interest me. :)
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    Please, that is just lazy excuse. Even news websites have catagory based on the news you interested in. Anandtech literally had a review of a gaming motherboard then a high end server thing, and newz feed gets filled with phone and other news.
  • name99 - Thursday, May 24, 2018 - link

    God, you must REALLY hate Twitter then...

    I argue with Andrei a lot, but every so often he writes a sentence like "You're always free to skip articles, nobody's forcing you to read it" that makes me want to clap him on the back and say "yes, YOU get it" :-)
  • Threska - Sunday, May 27, 2018 - link

    Taken to it's logical extreme the front page could be a dumping ground cesspool and the retort would be "you don't have to wade through any of it" which sounds witty but doesn't solve anything, but over time would lead to the predictable outcome of people leaving.
  • imaheadcase - Sunday, May 27, 2018 - link

    I do hate twitter, but because it has no valid purpose other than to get customer service done faster with companies because it reflects more on them because public venue. Its mostly just a rant inducing place, or a place that is basically just texting anyways since everyone just wants you to send a DM.

    The whole idea of saying "you are free to skip it" is kinda silly thing to say on the internet now. Especially since more and more you can filter things according to what you want. Not only that, but with the tight competition with views from tech websites its in best interest to have more options.

    Even the layout of website never changed. I mean have you ever been to website without a adblocker on? They don't even advertise tech related stuff on it. Its just stupid clickbait stuff.

    Keep in mind, this is not a complaint about articles itself, its just how they are posted. I love this site, been coming to it ever since i built first pc when i was a kid. But its focus is all over the place now vs years ago out what its posting. I'm half thinking one day i will see a review of electronic toothbrush then next day new CPU.
  • GreenReaper - Monday, June 4, 2018 - link

    I'd be fine with that, as long as it was the best darn toothbrush in town!
  • Threska - Sunday, May 27, 2018 - link

    Accessing through RSS might be a better solution especially with a good reader. Just needs accurate tags to match.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now