How to compare server processors (CPU)

January 9, 2015 by iWeb Technologies in: Hosting Essentials

Unlike shared hosting and virtual servers, hosted dedicated servers give you control over your choice of processor (CPU). Here’s some information to help you compare processors when buying dedicated servers.

How to compare server processors (CPU)

Photo by Eduardo Diez Viñuela

You can skip directly to the comparison of processors offered in iWeb servers, or keep reading to learn more about processors.

Processor features

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) in your server, also referred to simply as the processor, is what interprets and executes instructions, processing data and performing tasks like serving web pages, running database queries and executing other program and computing commands. The more processors in a server, the faster and more efficiently the server is capable of working, and the more instructions can be executed in a shorter space of time.

How fast a processor works depends partly on the clock speed, which is the speed at which the processor executes instructions. The faster the clock, the more instructions the CPU can execute per second. It is the processor speed, measured in hertz (GHz).

But as processors progress, improvements in chip architecture mean that irrespective of the clock speed, a processor can execute more instructions simultaneously, thanks to things like multiple cores, multiple threading, subcycling, increased data throughput and reduced latency.

Most modern hosted servers offer multi-core, multithreaded processors, which means that one very good processor may perform more tasks, more efficiently and faster than two or more lesser or older processors, even if the latter have a faster clock speed.

Multi-core means that a server actually has more than one processor core working to complete the tasks demanded by its users. Although a 4-core processor won’t necessarily be 4x faster than a single-core processor, it will still be able to execute instructions even if one or more of the cores is being fully utilized, rather than stalling. Multithreading further improves performance by allowing multiple threads of code, or multiple parts of a process to be executed simultaneously.

Another important specification of a processor is the cache memory, memory that reduces the time needed to access data from the main memory of the server. The cache memory allows the processor to store and access frequently required data much more quickly. The higher the cache memory, the wider the variety of data that can be held in cache, speeding up the performance of the processor.

Beyond these workload multipliers, each generation of processor chipsets brings with it improvements in chip architecture designed to increase the speed and capacity of performance, by reducing latency and increasing throughput at various stages of the computing process.

According to Intel, their latest Xeon E5 chipset v3 “Haswell” version provides a 3x performance improvement over its predecessor, and a 12x improvement over its 4-year old counterpart, the company citing a variety of architectural improvements during its launch.

Intel Xeon E5 v3 dual-socket servers support up to 36 cores and are among the few processors that are compatible with the new DDR4 RAM version that uses vastly reduced power consumption and provides superior data transfer speed.

Look beyond the processor

Remember that when choosing a dedicated server hosting provider, there is much more to server performance, not to mention service performance, than the processor alone.

For example, a high processor clock speed will cause bottlenecks unless the server’s bus clock speed is equivalently high, so you need to be confident that the servers are well engineered to get the maximum performance from each element of the hardware.

All of the hardware elements in a server are interdependent, and using the most powerful processor available may not be the optimum solution if your workload requires higher levels of RAM, the improved disk performance of Solid State Drives (SSD), or the redundancy of RAID technology.

Choosing a processor

Optimizing the cost-benefit of processor performance, as well as that of the level of RAM, and the type and size of storage and RAID in your server, depends entirely on how you intend to use the server. It depends on the intensity and the nature of the server’s workload. For free, no-obligation advice on sizing a server for your project, you can start a live chat on iWeb.com where an expert will be happy to answer your questions.

Otherwise here is a side-by-side comparison of features offered by some of the Intel processors offered by iWeb in our range of engineered dedicated servers:

Core™ i3-540 Core™ i5-2500 Xeon® E3-1270 V2 Xeon® E3-1230 V3
Architecture Clarkdale Sandy Bridge Ivy Bridge Haswell
Launched 2010 2011 2012 2013
Cores 2 4 4 4
Threads 4 4 8 8
Base Frequency 3.06 GHz 3.3 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.3 GHz
Max Frequency 3.06 GHz 3.7 GHz 3.9 GHz 3.7 GHz
Cache Memory 4MB 6MB 8MB 8MB
Bus Type DMI DMI DMI DMI
System Bus 2.5 GT/s 5 GT/s 5 GT/s 5 GT/s
Max Memory Bandwidth 21 GB/s 21 GB/s 25.6 GB/s 25.6 GB/s
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology No 2 2 2
Intel® vPro Technology No Yes Yes Yes
Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology Yes No Yes Yes
Intel® Virtualization Technology (VT-x) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Benchmark (cpubenchmarking.net) 2,690 6,214 9,638 9,397
Xeon® E5620 Xeon® E5-1620 V3 Xeon® E5-2630 V3 Xeon® E5-2650 V3
Architecture Westmere EP Haswell Haswell Haswell
Launched 2010 2014 2014 2014
Cores 4 4 8 10
Threads 8 8 16 20
Base Frequency 2.4 GHz 3.5 GHz 2.4 GHz 2.3 GHz
Max Frequency 2.66 GHz 3.6 GHz 3.2 GHz 3 GHz
Cache Memory 12MB 10MB 20MB 25MB
Bus Type QPI QPI QPI QPI
System Bus 5.86 GT/s 0 GT/s 8 GT/s 9.6 GT/s
Max Memory Bandwidth 25.6 GB/s 68 GB/s 59 GB/s 68 GB/s
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 1.0 2.0 2.0 2.0
Intel® vPro Technology Yes Yes Yes Yes
Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology Yes Yes Yes Yes
Intel® Virtualization Technology (VT-x) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Benchmark (cpubenchmarking.net) 4,929 9,857 12,615 15,768

You can also compare CPU benchmarks on cpubenchmark.net.

Intel, Intel Core and Intel Xeon are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.

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