Intel Xeon 6766E/6780E Sierra Forest vs. Ampere Altra Performance & Power Efficiency

Written by Michael Larabel in Processors on 5 June 2024 at 11:22 AM EDT. Page 1 of 6. 10 Comments.

With the launch day review of the Intel Xeon 6766E and Xeon 6780E "Sierra Forest" processors the focus was on looking at the performance and power efficiency compared to prior Intel Xeon generations as well as the AMD EPYC competition. For those wondering how Intel's new Xeon 6 Sierra Forest processors compete against Ampere Computing's "cloud native" Altra Max processors, here are those benchmarks looking at the performance and power efficiency.

Intel Xeon 6766E CPU

It's been four years already since Ampere Computing announced the Altra Max for up to 128 ARMv8 cores and working within existing Ampere Altra platforms. It's been since late 2020 that we've been testing the Ampere Altra Max M128-30 as their 3.0GHz, 128-core top-end SKU. While the platform hardware is aging, it continues to see improvements with time thanks to the maturing software in the AArch64 Linux ecosystem and there continues to be interesting new Ampere Altra servers/motherboards still available in retail channels, such as micro-ATX boards and other innovative solutions. Ampere Computing itself continues promoting Ampere Altra (Max) for cloud native workloads, AI, and other purposes.

Yes, since last year they've also been talking up AmpereOne with up to 192 cores per socket for even denser servers, but so far there's been no apparent availability of AmpereOne outside of whatever large customers/partners. There have been no independent reviews yet on AmpereOne, no readily available AmpereOne solutions from OEMs/ODMs, etc. It's been disappointing that there still is no AmpereOne hardware availability yet and as of my last update from them it's that over the coming months they will aim to focus on the medium and smaller customers/deployments. Even in the Ampere Computing 2024 roadmap update they continued promoting existing Ampere Altra and announcing new solutions (Qualcomm Cloud AI 100 + Ampere) that initially are relying on Ampere Altra. So while it would have been much more fascinating seeing how AmpereOne competes with Intel Sierra Forest, there's no hardware to do so at this time and I haven't heard when such hardware might arrive. Thus for now given the continued availability of Ampere Altra in the marketplace, it's a valid comparison seeing how the 128 ARMv8 cores can compete with Intel's new E-core-only server processors.

Ampere Altra Max

The top-end Ampere Altra Max M128-30 features 128 cores, rated for a 3.0GHz sustained frequency, and rated for 183 Watt power use. Ampere Altra supports eight channels of DDR4-3200 ECC memory, 1MB of L2 cache per core, 128 lanes of PCIe Gen4, and the processor is manufactured on a TSMC 7nm FinFET process. Meanwhile with the new Intel Xeon 6700E Sierra Forest CPUs there is eight channels of DDR5-6400 memory and 88 lanes of PCI Express 5.0 as well as CXL Type-1/2/3 support.

Xeon 6700E SKU table

The current-flagship Intel Xeon 6780E model has 144 cores with a 2.2GHz base frequency and 3.0GHz turbo frequency while having a 108MB L3 cache and 330 Watt TDP. The Intel Xeon 6766E that I also have available for testing is 144 cores but with a 1.9GHz base frequency and 2.7GHz turbo frequency while allowing for a 250 Watt TDP. The Xeon 6780E/6766E have 16 more cores (+12.5%) than the Ampere Altra Max M128 but also with a much higher TDP and much faster DDR5-6400 memory support... With AmpereOne is DDR5 and PCIe Gen 5 albeit no hardware for testing.

Intel Xeon 6780E installed

For this round of Ampere Altra vs. Intel Xeon 6700E testing, all of the processors were tested in a 1P configuration. The Ampere Altra M128-30 was running within the Gigabyte (Giga Computing) G242-P36 server single socket server. My dual socket Ampere Altra "Mt Jade" reference server has been rather flakey with time and thus only focusing on single socket tests. Those wanting to see the dual socket Xeon 6700E benchmarks can see my launch day review.

Intel Xeon Sierra Forest processor

Besides the Ampere Altra Max M128-30 vs. Intel Xeon 6780E/6766E benchmarks, the AMD EPYC single socket results are also shown in this article for reference. This performance and power efficiency benchmark comparison comes down to the:

- EPYC 8534P
- EPYC 8534PN
- EPYC 9654
- EPYC 9684X
- EPYC 9754
- Xeon 6766E
- Xeon 6780E
- Xeon Platinum 8380
- Xeon Platinum 8490H
- Xeon Platinum 8592+
- Xeon Max 9468
- Xeon Max 9480
- Ampere Altra Max M128-30

All processors were tested with memory at their maximum number of memory channels and optimal frequency. All of the processors were benchmarked on Ubuntu 22.04 LTS with the Linux 6.9 kernel upgrade and using the performance governor across all of the CPUs. The CPU package power consumption numbers are what's exposed for each processor via their power driver's sysfs interface. AC system power consumption (wall power) wasn't monitored due to using AMD/Intel reference servers that aren't optimized for wall power.

Intel Xeon 6700E Sierra Forest vs. Ampere Altra vs. AMD EPYC

So let's see how the Ampere Altra Max 128-core ARMv8 server compares in performance and power efficiency to the new Intel Xeon 6700E processors.

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