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

  • aryonoco - Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - link

    Between 50% to 100% higher performance while costing between 40% to 50% less. Stunning!

    I remember the sad days of Opteron in 2012 and 2013. If you'd told me that by the end of the decade AMD would be in this position, I'd have wanted to know what you're on.

    Everyone at AMD deserves a massive cheer, from the technical and engineering team all the way to Lisa Su, who is redefining what "execution" means.

    Also thanks for the testing Johan, I can imagine testing this server at home with Europe's recent heatwave would have not been fun. Good to see you writing frequently for AT again, and looking forward to more of your real world benchmarks.
  • twtech - Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - link

    It's as much about Intel having dropped the ball over the past few years as it is about AMD's execution.

    According to Intel's old roadmaps, they ought to be transitioning past 10nm on to 7nm by now, and AMD's recent releases in that environment would have seemed far less impressive.
  • deltaFx2 - Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - link

    Yeah, except I don't remember anyone saying Intel was going great guns because AMD dropped the ball in the bulldozer era. AMD had great bulldozer roadmaps too, it didn't matter much. If bulldozer had met its design targets maybe Nehalem would not be as impressive... See, nobody ever says that. It's almost like if AMD is doing well, it's not because they did a good job but intel screwed up.

    Roadmaps are cheap. Anyone can cobble together a powerpoint slide.
  • Lord of the Bored - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Well, it is a little of both on both sides.
    Intel's been doing really well in part because AMD bet hard on Bulldozer and it didn't pay out.

    Similarly, when AMD's made really good processors but Intel was on their game, it didn't much matter. The Athlon and the P2/3 traded blows in the Megahertz wars, but in the end AMD couldn't actually break Intel because Intel made crooked business deals*backspace* because AMD was great, but not actually BETTER.

    The Athlon 64 was legendary because AMD was at the top of their game and Intel was riding THEIR Bulldozer into the ground at the same time. If the Pentium Mobile hadn't existed, thus delaying a Netburst replacement, things would be very different right now.
  • sing_electric - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Not just Netburst - remember, Intel's plans were ORIGINALLY for Itanium to migrate down through the stack, ending up in consumer machines. Two massively costly mistakes when it came to planing the future of CPUs. Honestly, I hope Intel properly compensated the team behind the P6, an architecture so good that it was essentially brought back a year after release to after those 2 failures.

    OTOH, it's kind of amazing that AMD survived the Bulldozer years, since their margin for error is much smaller than Intel's. Good thing they bought ATI, since I'm not sure the company survives without the money they made from graphics cards and consoles...
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Thank you for the kudos and sympathy. It was indeed hot! At 39°C/102°F, the server was off.

    I agree - I too admire the no-nonsense leadership of Lisa Su. Focus, careful execution and customer centric.
  • WaltC - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    AMD has proven once again that Intel can be beaten, and soundly, too...;) The myth of the indestructible Intel is forever shattered, and Intel's CPU architectures are so old they creak and are riddled with holes, imo. Where would Intel have put us, if there'd been no AMD? You like Rdram, you like Itanium, just for starters? You like paying through the nose? That's where Intel wanted to go in its never-ending quest to monopolize the market! AMD stopped all of that by offering an alternative path the market was happy to take--a path that didn't involve emulators and tossing out your software library just to give Intel a closed bus! Intel licensed AMD's x86-64, among other things--and they flourished when AMD dropped the ball. I chalk all that up to AMD going through a succession of horrible CEOs--people who literally had no clue! Remember the guy who ran AMD for awhile who concluded it made sense for AMD to sell Intel servers...!? Man, I thought AMD was probably done! There's just no substitute for first-class management at the top--Su was the beginning of the AMD renaissance! Finally! As a chip manufacturer, Intel will either learn how to exist in a competitive market or the company over time will simply fade away. I often get the feeling that Intel these days is more interested in the financial services markets than in the computer hardware markets. While Intel was busy milking its older architectures and raking in the dough, AMD was busy becoming a real competitor once again! What a difference the vision at the top, or the lack of it, makes. Reply
  • aryonoco - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    That dude was Rory Read, and while the SeaMicro acquisition didn't work out, he did some great work and restructured AMD and in many ways saved the company while dealing with the Bulldozer disaster.

    Rory stablized the finances of the company by lowering costs over 30%, created the semi-custom division that enabled them to win the contracts for both the Xbox and PS4, creating a stable stream of revenue. Of course Rory's greatest accomplishment was hiring Lisa Su and then grooming her to become the CEO.

    Rory was a transitional CEO and he did exactly what was required of him. If there is a CEO that should be blamed for AMD's woes, it's Dirk Meyer.
  • aryonoco - Thursday, August 8, 2019 - link

    Forgot to mention, Rory also hired Kim Keller to design K12, and in effect he started the project that would later on become Zen.

    Of course Lisa deserves all the glory from then on. She has been an exceptional leader, bringing focus and excelling at execution, things that AMD always traditionally lacked.
  • tamalero - Sunday, August 11, 2019 - link

    Id Blame Hector Ruiz first.
    It was his crown to lose during the Athlon 64 era, and he simply didn't have anything to show. Making the Athlon 64 core arch a one hit wonder for more than a decade.

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