Weeks after a Facebook executive criticized AMD and Intel, saying Facebook engineers had not seen the expected gains in performance from the chip makers' newest processors, AMD officials are speaking out. While agreeing that benchmark tests that better reflect real-world situations are needed, AMD officials also say the chips their company is producing are among the fastest and most energy-efficient, and are good for customers from the smallest businesses to the largest server farms.
At the Structure conference in San Francisco
June 25, Facebook Vice President Jonathan Heiliger took chip makers and OEMs to
task, saying the social networking site was not seeing the expected performance
improvements from systems powered by the newest processors.
Heiliger, vice president of technical operations at Facebook, said Facebook
engineers were not seeing the same performance results in tests that Advanced
have been promoting for their latest processor releases.
AMD officials are now responding to the
criticism. The officials, while noting Heiliger's concerns, said the Opteron
processors AMD has released in the past few
months are among the highest-performing and most efficient on the market. They
also said what is most needed are benchmarks that more accurately reflect
In a talk at the conference with GigaOM's Om Malik, Heiliger said the results
Facebook engineers were seeing were disappointing.
"The biggest thing that surprised us ... is the less-than-anticipated
performance gains from new microarchitectures," Heiliger said. "The
performance gains they are touting in the press, we are not seeing in our
In a blog post July 13, Nigel Dessau,
senior vice president and chief
marketing officer at AMD, defended the
results that the new chips are hitting "in raw, classic benchmark
terms," but said Facebook may be getting thrown off because its
programming model uses more PHP and Java than C++.
"Let's face it: Synthetic benchmarks are essentially a useful
evil," Dessau wrote. "Everyone
wants to know how a certain technology performs against a standardized test,
but what happens when that test [bears] no real resemblance to the real work
people do? You get a huge disconnect."
That disconnect is amplified in highly scaled data centers where massive
server farms run such environments as cloud computing, where small
discrepancies between benchmarks and real results are magnified.
In a blog post July 7, AMD Product
Marketing Director Margaret Lewis
-who was in the audience at the show when
Heiliger made his remarks-said AMD officials
are talking a lot about how to make benchmarks better reflect real-world
"Jonathan's comments validate this approach," Lewis said. "He
has a very specialized software stack that he believes is not showing the
performance of the industry-standard server benchmarks that AMD
and Intel quote."
That said, Lewis and Dessau
defended what AMD is doing, pointing to the
latest quad- and six-core Opterons as striking a good balance between raw
performance and energy efficiency.
Dessau in his blog pointed to
the quad-core Opteron EE chip-which consumes 40 watts of power-and the six-core
the latest in AMD's
that AMD launched July 12.
"This continues our tradition of bringing highly efficient,
power-optimized solutions to market to meet the demands of customers small and
large-from small businesses to massive server farms," Dessau
AMD and Intel are locked in a tight
competition to develop energy-efficient chips that improve performance. Where
once the chip makers relied on cranking up the clock speed of chips to improve
performance, they now are looking at other ways-such virtualization support and
power management features-to improve performance while holding down power
Intel in March rolled out its quad-core Xeon 5500 Series "Nehalem
processors for servers with two sockets, which officials touted
for their performance and efficiency gains. Intel is expected to release its
"Nehalem EX" chips for four-socket servers later in 2009. AMD
unveiled Istanbul in June.