Which Server CPU Suits Me?

A decade ago, server hardware CPU choices were limited-for probably the most part-to a few core architectures managing a narrow selection of highly proprietary os’s. Sun SPARC chipsets designed for the Solaris UNIX operating-system were extremely popular within the financial and upstart dot-com environments, whereas Intel CPUs for Windows environments were the option of the corporate desktop environment. HP, IBM, and Digital made their very own proprietary CPUs to accompany their very own operating systems.

To give you a concept of how long ago that seems now, Apple would be a total non-factor in server systems and was nearly absent from desktop environment discussions too (Apple??£¤s mobile device introduced in 1998 was referred to as Newton and soon disappeared in the market). Multiple tidal waves of change have washed within the hosting industry previously decade, with probably the most monumental of these being the rise of free operating systems, based on Linux. The recognition of Linux quickly dwarfed the proprietary UNIX variants (HP-UX, Solaris, AIX, etc.) enough where today many of those os’s that still survived have open sourced themselves and can include large chunks from the Linux core themselves.

Since it was designed from the outset to become modular and cross-platform, Linux distributions shot to popularity on a number of chipsets, including SPARC and Intel chips. At that time, it became a battle of price-performance as well as for most business users, the Intel platform had become the one of choice?-although no longer necessarily for “Wintel” (Windows/Intel) only. Today, when choosing a hosting provider, both Wintel and “Lintel” (Linux OS on Intel CPU chipset) are generally very popular options.

Typically the most popular Intel server CPU today may be the Intel Xeon (http://www.intel.com/p/en_US/products/server/processor) which, at that time, of this writing are available in the 5600, 6500, and 7500 series. The Xeon CPU line has been around since 1999 with the Pentium II Xeon chip and subsequent releases dropped the Pentium brand-name in the line. Today, the Xeon CPU is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures and may also include single, dual, or quad-core configurations. In CPU terminology a “core” represents one processing unit inside a chip with the term “quad” meaning you will find four of them (instead of the old single-core days). Intel Xeon CPUs released last year and later (like the 7400 “Dunnington” chip and the 7500 “Beckton” chip) are multi-core chips able to supporting up to eight cores or more to 24MB Level 3 cache on-chip. The main competitor to Intel in the region of server CPUs may be the AMD Opteron series. AMD Opteron CPUs are also made of a variety of multi-core options, as much as the 12-core 6100 series CPU released this year. The Opteron CPUs gained an earlier technical lead within the Xeon CPUs because they could outperform Xeons in the execution of x86 32-bit apps (early Xeon chips suffered noticeable performance degradation when executing x86 32-bit apps).

When focusing in on the CPU, it is important to not observe the chipset as the single determinant of system performance. In several heavy data write environments, hard disk speed and disk access times can drastically affect perceived system throughput. Network access and overall server load must be performance determinants as well. At the conclusion of the day, the actual server software design and implementation might have a larger positive/negative affect on performance than the modern CPUs or hard disk options. Experienced developers have seen more than their great amount of applications delivered to their knees by poorly designed database SQL queries, for instance. Therefore, be sure to concentrate on your overall system design when making out your computing environment.

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