The multicore rush is on, and what a race it's going to be if the performance of Hewlett-Packard's DL 585 server with four 64-bit AMD Opteron 880 dual-core processors is any indication.
I installed the beefy 4U server in our Green Bay, Wis., Real-World Labs® for testing. The 2.4-GHz CPUs run 64-bit Windows Server 2003 on 16 GB of RAM and 138 GB of SCSI disk managed by HP's Disk Array management system, 4-Gbps NICs, and a PCI-X bus. The server has six free PCI-X slots--expansion space that's increasingly lacking in servers--for peripheral cards. You could quibble with the lack of PCI-Express slots; HP based the server on its year-old single-core machine, PCI-X bus and all. HP wanted to be among the first to market, as did competitors such as Sun Microsystems, whose 800-series dual-core Opteron, the SunFire V402, also uses a PCI-X bus.
With the server's memory, fast disk, wide network bandwidth, and four dual-core CPUs, I knew testing it wouldn't be as simple as just plugging in some gear to learn where the machine is overloaded. This is the first time Network Computing has had hands-on experience with a dual-core Opteron system, but all servers have enough in common that I knew my first test would be to point Spirent Communications' Avalanche 2500 load-testing appliance at the DL 585 and, using Microsoft's IIS, hammer the machine with a 24-KB test consisting of an HTML file and four images. Given IIS' ingrained inability to put a load on more than four processors, I didn't expect this test to make much of a dent on the server, and it didn't.
Outrageous CPU performance from the dual-core Opteron 880s
Four teamable 1-Gbps NICs
Highly expandable memory
CPU performance may be too much for your needs
PCI-X slots only, no PCIe
Dated internal disk subsystem may hold back performance
DL 585 Server, starts at $8,387 ($31,667, as tested). Hewlett-Packard, (650) 857-1501. www.hp.com