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Why Less is Sometimes More: When 12 Cores are Better Than 16 Cores

Why Less is Sometimes More When 12 Cores are Better Than 16 Cores

The newest member of the Fujitsu product line, the Fujitsu SPARC M12, has brought many technical advances to the server industry. This includes one of the best server processors in the world: the SPARC64 XII.

One big change in the processor is the number of cores. The predecessor CPU, the SPARC64 X+ had 16 cores while the new processor, the SPARC64 XII has 12. Some of you might be thinking “Hey, wait a minute, aren’t more cores better than fewer cores?” Sometimes yes, but sometimes no. In this case, fewer cores are better from both a performance standpoint and a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective. How is this possible?

Fujitsu SPARC block diagram

There are several factors that help the SPARC64 XII enable higher performance and lower cost when compared to the SPARC64 X+. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

  • Speed: The SPARC64 XII is significantly faster out of the box, running at up to 4.25 GHz vs. 3.7 GHz for the SPARC64 X+. This is nearly a 15% improvement generation-to-generation so customers who upgrade will see an immediate performance advantage.
  • ALUs: The new SPARC64 XII has eight integer ALUs (arithmetic logic units) and eight floating point ALUs per processor core vs. four each for the SPARC64 X+. This is why the SPARC64 XII has captured top per-core slots for SPECint_rate2006 and SPECfp_rate2006 benchmark performance and is ideal for computationally-intensive workloads.
  • Threads: The SPARC64 XII has eight SMT threads per core vs. only two per core for the former SPARC flagship. The new chip offers 96 threads per processor, compared to the SPARC 64 X+, which offered only 32 threads. More threads allow more independent transactions and/or program segments to be concurrently executed.
  • Memory Bandwidth: The new processor has 153.6 GB/sec memory bandwidth per processor while the older CPU has 102.4 GB/sec. This is an improvement of over 50% and will definitely have a positive impact on application performance.
  • I/O Bandwidth: The SPARC64 XII provides a total of 63.6 GB/sec I/O bandwidth per processor, which is almost double the 32 GB/sec I/O bandwidth of the SPARC64 X+. This means that data coming from and going to storage will be almost twice as fast.
  • Overall Performance: On a core-to-core comparison, the new SPARC64 XII processor is estimated to be 2.5x faster than the SPARC64 X+ processor it replaces. On a per-socket basis, even with the SPARC64 XII offering fewer cores, the new processor still outperforms the older CPU by nearly a factor of 2.

This higher performance translates directly to lower TCO in two important ways. First, the price/performance of the new Fujitsu SPARC M12 system is 21% higher than the SPARC64 X+ based Fujitsu M10. Systems with larger memory offer even more savings for the Fujitsu SPARC M12 customer due to the lower cost of DDR4 memory vs. the DDR3 memory used in the Fujitsu M10. So right out of the gate, that’s a 21% price/performance advantage for the new system and processor.

But the biggest TCO saving is software costs. Most software these days is priced by the core, not by the socket. So, if you have more performance from a fewer number of cores, as is the case with the SPARC64 XII vs. the SPARC64 X+, then you will be able to run your software with lower cost and still get the performance you need.

Here’s an example that most of you will be familiar with. The list price for the Oracle database is calculated by this formula: number of cores x core factor = number of licenses needed. The per core licensing factor for SPARC processors is .50. At $47,000 per processor for an Oracle Enterprise Database license, we’re not talking about small change. With that in mind, check out these numbers.

SPARC64 X+ SPARC64 XII Difference
Number of cores 64 24 -40
Number of total licenses 32 12 -20
Total annual license cost $1,504,000 $564,000  940,000

What the table above is telling us is that a four processor system with SPARC64 X+ CPUs would require 32 Oracle database licenses for a cost of $1,504,000 per year. A new system running SPARC64 XII processors would cost only $564,000 – a saving of $940,000 – and would provide almost the same performance.

Take a look at your own systems and associated licensing charges to see how a new Fujitsu SPARC M12 with the new SPARC64 XII might affect your annual license outlay. You could find that the license savings, combined with higher performance, may well be all the justification you need for a new system or two.

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