Intel Xeon Platinum 8490H "Sapphire Rapids" Performance Benchmarks

Written by Michael Larabel in Processors on 10 January 2023 at 01:00 PM EST.

Now that the 4th Gen Xeon Scalable "Sapphire Rapids" and Xeon CPU Max Series overview is out of the way, you are probably very eager to see some independent performance benchmarks of the much anticipated Sapphire Rapids CPUs that are going up against AMD 4th Gen EPYC "Genoa" processors for 2023... For kicking off our Sapphire Rapids benchmarking, first up is a look at the Xeon Platinum 8490H performance under Linux as the flagship SKU.

As a recap of the Xeon Platinum 8490H specifications that were laid out in the Sapphire Rapids overview as well, this flagship processor features 60 cores / 120 threads, a 1.9GHz base frequency, 2.9GHz all-core turbo frequency, 3.5GHz maximum turbo frequency, and eight channels of DDR5-4800 memory. The 8490H has a 112.5MB cache and carries a 350 Watt TDP rating.

On the accelerator front, the Xeon Platinum 8490H is maxed out with four DSA devices, four QAT devices, four DLB devices, and four IAA devices -- thus no Intel On Demand here, all the hardware capabilities are present and enabled for this flagship SKU. The recommended customer pricing on the Xeon Platinum 8490H is $17,000 USD.

The Xeon Platinum 8490H goes up against AMD's current flagship in the Genoa line-up, the EPYC 9654. The EPYC 9654 as a reminder is 96 cores / 192 threads, 2.4GHz base clock, all-core boost up to 3.55GHz, and a maximum boost clock of 3.7GHz. The EPYC 9654 has a 360 Watt default TDP. AMD EPYC Genoa CPUs supports 12 channel DDR5-4800 compared to 8-channel DDR5-4800 with the top-end Sapphire Rapids SKUs. But Genoa lacks any dedicated accelerators like is found with Sapphire Rapids nor is there AMX with the new AMD parts -- only now with Zen 4 is AMD supporting AVX-512, years after Intel server CPUs were first shipping with it. The EPYC 9654 has a noticeably lower list price than the 8490H at $11,805 USD. It will be interesting though to see how availability and pricing play out for both Genoa and Sapphire Rapids over the weeks/months ahead.

Closer in spec to the Xeon Platinum 8490H is the EPYC 9554, which is 64 cores / 128 threads while having a 360 Watt TDP... To its advantage though is also a 3.1GHz base clock, 3.75GHz boost clock, and 256MB L3 cache. Again though, no accelerators or AMX, but at least it has a clock speed advantage for benefit across all workloads, twelve channel memory support, and a larger cache size. The EPYC 9554 has a list-price of $9,087 USD -- or just 53% the listed price of the 8490H.

At the moment the Intel Xeon Platinum 8490H is the only SKU of the Sapphire Rapids line-up I currently have available for review at Phoronix. Intel kindly supplied two of the Xeon Platinum 8490H processors and their reference server platform for my review and Linux benchmarking at Phoronix. Hopefully with time we'll also be able to test other SKUs, particularly the Xeon CPU Max Series with the 64GB of HBM2e memory should be very interesting considering the performance uplift we've been enjoying out of Milan-X.

During Intel's press/analyst event it was entertaining (and great) seeing Intel downplaying SPEC and focusing more on real-world workloads for their performance. (Granted, SPEC doesn't benefit from the accelerator story, at least not yet.) Many of the workloads they cite are regularly benchmarked at Phoronix and part of the hundreds of different test profiles available from the numerous AI workloads to ClickHouse, RocksDB, PostgreSQL, Numenta, rendering workloads, and dozens of others. With my testing for nearly two decades now have focused on delivering a very diverse range of benchmark results and happily adding more benchmarks from reader requests permitting they meet my requirements around being automated friendly, reproducible, freely available assets, etc.

For as much as I love carpet bombing servers with benchmarks, this initial testing of the Xeon Platinum 8490H is rather limited. Unfortunately, due to the holidays and other factors on their end, Intel only shipped the server last week and received this past Friday (6 January). Thus it's been a non-stop four days of benchmarking.... Hardly enough time to stress the platform as much as I would like in time for the launch day review, especially with some reviewers having received their hardware in December. Thus in this article are just my preliminary benchmarks for existing tested workloads that I was able to complete in time. Many more benchmarks will be on the way when having more time with this server.

Additionally, there are many areas of Sapphire Rapids I want to dive into more around the accelerators, AVX-512 on/off, various Linux tuning and distribution benchmarks, making Sapphire Rapids even faster with Intel's optimized Clear Linux distribution, and the many other follow-up type benchmark articles you can usually find on Phoronix after each interesting CPU launch.

Especially on the accelerator front will be quite interesting. Due to just the four day window of receiving the Sapphire Rapids hardware to embargo lift, the benchmarks today aren't focused on the accelerator side due to the short timeframe to prepare my testing for them properly in setting them up and verifying the correct operation, etc. As part of the reviewers material Intel did provide some sample accelerated benchmarks they recommend, but are not permitting the public redistribution of those assets post-launch. With my longstanding focus on transparency and reproducibility of benchmark results by any/all parties, it's hardly interesting running some vendor-provided scripts that can't be obtained by the general public for evaluating on their own hardware in calculating upgrade benefits or analyzing the software implementation. So I'll be setting up my own accelerator benchmarks from the public repositories of code already prepared for Sapphire Rapids, etc. The accelerator benchmarking will also be much more interesting over the months ahead as more real-world, open-source and upstream software begins supporting the new accelerator IP of Sapphire Rapids.

So expect many interesting Xeon Sapphire Rapids performance/benchmark articles over the coming weeks (and months) on Phoronix. Let's move on with the exciting initial benchmarks for the Intel Xeon Platinum 8490H.

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