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Iwill DK8N Motherboard review

Part 1 of 3


DK8N 32-bit NUMA & non-NUMA benchmarking

Benchmarking utilities used: ScienceMark v 2beta 29032003; SiSoft Sandra Pro SP2 2004.8.9.131

Memory: bandwidth & latency

At the begining of this review we put the question: "Is the DK8N better at the things Opterons already do well than existing AMD-chipset based dual-channel motherboards?"

Since we have dismally failed (as yet) to test the DK8N's NFORCE3 AGP tunnel; the major performance area in which the DK8N can further optimise the strengths of the Opteron platform is in memory bandwidth - the higher the better - & latency - the lower the better. 

Rather than bore & confuse our readers with a random scattering of the usual semi-meaningful benchmarks, we thought we'd start with the least meaningful of all, then really focus in a bit . . . . 

 . . . let's look again at our DK8N's SiSoftSandra figures for bandwidth & efficiency - it is remarkable for a multiprocessor platform to be said to be over 85% efficient at exploiting its memory. 

We have included for interest the same test with 'chip kill' & all 'BG scrub' ECC options enabled, alongside NUMA-enabled figures from XP Pro 32-bit SP2 & Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition 32-bit:

 75% efficiency

 81% efficiency

 86% efficiency

 88% efficiency

This widely-used benchmark is a tweaked version of STREAM, & is designed & optimised to show what is possible under the most favourable circumstances. The key point to have in mind when looking at SSSandra 'scores' is that they reflect the most favourable memory operation, repeated ad nauseam to explore the limits of the silicon implementation.

Applications rarely if ever use memory in this way - each has its own profile of frequencies of usage of a whole range of operations; we thought it might be worth looking a little further into what STREAM (the version in ScienceMark v2b) might show: 

STREAM Copy                                                                                                                  

  Average

MB/s:XPSP1

186%
99%
177%
STREAM Scale  
178%
108%
170%
STREAM Add  
179%
105%
171%
STREAM Triadd  
168%
99%
161%

 . . . not quite as dramatic; tho' it seems fair to say that NUMA configurations show overall a measured boost over XP Pro 32-bit of around 70% in streaming operations, & that XP Pro SP2 appears to have a constant slight edge over Server 2003. 

Looking a little closer still, using ScienceMark's Membench, we can see the development put into in the XP SP2 kernel:

Algorithm Bandwidth outside L1/L2 cache region 2003:XPSP1
+ 50.1%
+ 38.1%
+ 51%
+ 44.9%
- 5.9%
- 5.7%
- 6.2%
- 12%

. . . & lastly, we were astonished to see this:

Main memory latency in ns against stride in bytes

 . . . here we have a multiprocessor platform, with (in NUMA guise) main memory latency near that of a uniprocessor AMD64 system, & truly astonishing gross stream bandwidth. The DK8N whether in conventional or NUMA configuration is clearly far & away the best solution yet at emphasising the strengths of the Opteron in a dual-CPU configuration. The other big surprise is its performance with ECC 'chip kill' enabled . . .  so far there does not really seem to have been a price; but:

L2 cache latency in ns against stride in bytes

 . . . . there ain't no such thing as a free lunch . . . 

DK8N 32-bit NUMA & non-NUMA benchmarks

PCMark 2004/120
Win XPSP1 XPSP2 NUMA
(figures: larger = better; times: smaller = better) Win XPSP1 Win XPSP2 NUMA

speedup NUMA : SP1

File Compression (MB/s) 6.21 6.44 +3.7%
File Encryption (MB/s) 73.28 74.12 +1.1%
File Decompression (MB/s) 56.42 57.42 +1.8%
Image Processing (Mpixels/s) 28.92 29.18 same
Virus Scanning (MB/s) 5636.51 5529.08 -1.9%
Grammar Check (KB/s) 5.92 6.08 +2.7%
File Decryption (MB/s) 71.31 73.66 +3.3%
Audio Conversion (KB/s) 3075.49 3174.18 +3.2%
Web Page Rendering (Pages/s) 5.98 6.04 +1.0%
WMV Video Compression (fps) 86.67 88.88 +2.5%
DivX Video Compression (fps) 84.32 89.38 +6.0%
Physics Calculation & 3D (fps) 76.36 76.38 same
Graphics Memory - 64 lines (fps) 469.23 470.95 same
PCMark (System Suite) 5461 5564 +1.9%
Memory 4850 5011 +3.3%

CLIBench Mk III SMP 0.7.16

Dhrystone 2.1 (kDhryst) 12603 12990 +3.1%
Whetstone (MFLOPS) 2545 2622 +3.0%
Eight queens problem (pps) 16353 16845 +3.0%
Number crunch (k ops) 370370 378726 +2.3%
Floating point (k ops) 39152 40554 +3.6%
Memory throughput (kB/s) 1387278 1476937 +6.5%

Cinebench2003

OpenGL h/w lighting; scene 1 (secs) 11.3 11.23 same
OpenGL h/w lighting; scene 2 (secs) 5.99 5.99 same
OpenGL s/w lighting; scene 1 (secs) 11.12 11.10 same
OpenGL s/w lighting; scene 2 (secs) 4.79 4.4 +8.1%
Cinema 4D shading; scene 1 (secs) 30.6 28.34 +7.4%
Cinema 4D shading; scene 2 (secs) 11.03 10.68 +3.2%
Single CPU render (secs) 80.3 77.0 +4.1%
Multiple CPU render (secs) 42.5 41.6 +2.1%

Povray 3.61

Povray 3.5/1.02 benchmark (min:secs) 26.53 26.51 same

 

DK8N & real world performance

The next part of this review will be a detailed comparison, using our regular workaday video & graphics applications, between this dual-Opteron Iwill DK8N system at 2.4GHz & AMD's previous dual-CPU platform, the AthlonMP, also at 2.4GHz. We will also continue to focus on NUMA v non-NUMA 32-bit performance. 

We're using our regular applications because finding respectable, & multithreaded, benchmarking utilities is tough: the only generalised suite we respect is COSBI - but this, alas, does not yet adequately support nor reflect the performance of  SMP systems.

To give an idea of the very considerable real world performance of this DK8N; here are a couple of screenshots from an XP Pro SP1 installation with two versions of the Cinemacraft CCE-SP MPEG2 software encoder re-encoding PAL MPEG2 streams at an average of 4000 Mbps (3-pass VBR, frameserving with AVISynth 2.54/mpeg2dec3dg; output settings identical):

CCE-SP 2.5x

CCE-SP 2.67x

 

Those who know this top-quality encoder will immediately notice two things: it is - er - quite fast (re-encoding a 95-minute MPEG2 stream to DVD-quality in 25 minutes or less) & that for the first time in our experience, CCE-SP 2.67x, which is specifically optimised for the PIV-family & SSE2, runs faster on an AMD platform than version 2.5x

Memory tests & benchmarks: conclusions

As of this date; the DK8N's memory is as fast as it gets in 32-bit Windows. As regards 32-bit NUMA operations; we were impressed by the measured performance of XP pro SP2 - this kernel has clearly enjoyed a general optimisation relative to Server 2003. We feel the above benchmarking utilities show a slight but persuasive edge for XP SP2, NUMA-enabled, over XP SP1 - but the difference is slight enough to be mostly due to kernel optimisations rather than NUMA.

copyright Stephen Hoar August 2004 for www.burningissues.net - all rights reserved

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