Choosing between AMD and Intel for the Virtual Infrastructure

My ESXi v5 runs on a Mini-ITX Z68 motherboard with Intel Core i5 2500T (Quad core). I choose this because I wanted to have a silent (fanless) and low consumption box. The box runs quite well. The only thing that I regret is that I don’t have access to any sensors from the vSphere client. I was looking at the SuperMicro motherboards as they seem to provide IPMI.

The SuperMicro H8SCM-F looked really really nice. Micro ATX Form, integrated IPMI and KVM, support for up to 128GB of RAM and AMD Opteron 4000 Series ; the Opteron 4256 EE @2.5 GHz have 8 cores and a TDP of 35W! So I started to wonder how whould an Opteron 4256 EE (8 cores, 2,5GHz, 35W TDP) performs vs my Core i5 2500T (4 cores, 2,3GHz, 45W TDP). According to SPECfp2006 Rate Results, the AMD Opteron 4256 EE would have a baseline of 67 and the Intel Core i5-2500T would have a baseline of 87. A better comparison should be done with Opteron 3250 HE (4 cores, 2,5GHz, 45W TDP) which is ranked 52.

Then the big question raised: is it better to choose AMD or Intel for the virtual infrastructure. I recall reading than AMD processor were perfect for virtualization because they have more cores and use less power. But this was the marketing chat and was published a year ago. What I’m going to do here is try to understand how to compare processor in the case of hypervisor.

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Compare CPU speed and heat

I used to run my I.T. services on an AIRIS N1110 shipping an Intel(R) Core(TM)2 T7400 @2.16GHz. It was quite nice, fast and silent. In fact, I noticed that this processor was used in MacBook and iMac Late-2006 ; which might indicate that this processor is quite optimal regarding performance and speed ratio.

Since that computer died, I switched my services from spare hardware to spare hardware. I was never really convinced to have found a “nice” replacement hardware. So I’m looking at purchasing a new one. From my experience, what really counts in the speed/heat ratio are the CPU and the motherboard. The CPU will enable performance depending on cores and frequency and will generate heat depending on its TDP (Thermal Design Power). The motherboard will enable performance depending on its design and mostly depending on the RAM it can support.
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