Cloudflare says Intel is not inside its next-gen servers – Ice Lake melted its energy budget

64-core AMD Epycs win again as upgrade delivers performance boost without slurping more 'leccy


Internet-grooming company Cloudflare has revealed that it was unable to put Intel inside its new home-brew servers, because they just used too much energy.

A Tuesday post by platform operations engineer Chris Howells reveals that Cloudflare has been working on designs for an eleventh-generation server since mid-2020.

"We evaluated Intel's latest generation of 'Ice Lake' Xeon processors," Howells wrote. "Although Intel's chips were able to compete with AMD in terms of raw performance, the power consumption was several hundred watts higher per server – that's enormous."

Fatally enormous – Cloudflare's evaluation saw it adopt AMD's 64-core Epyc 7713 for the servers it deploys to over 200 edge locations around the world.

Power savings also influenced a decision to go from three disks to two in the new design. A pair of 1.92TB Samsung drives replaced the three of the Korean giant's 960GB units found in previous designs. The net gain was a terabyte of capacity, and six fewer watts of power consumption.

Howellls's post also reveals that testing produced data showing that equipping its servers with 512GB of RAM did not produce enough of a performance boost to justify the expense. The company has therefore settled on 384GB of memory, but did jump from DDR4-2933 to DDR4-3200 as the slight cost increase delivered a justifiable performance boost.

Cloudflare stuck with Mellanox ConnectX-4 dual-port 25G Ethernet adapters.

"We investigated higher-speed Ethernet, but we do not currently see this as beneficial," Howells wrote. That's not a brickbat for fast Ethernet, but a decision made possible by Cloudflare's highly distributed architecture that removes the need for higher speeds and the higher cost of faster kit.

One change in the new servers is the use of OpenBMC to deploy firmware.

"With access to the source code, we have been able to configure BMC features such as the fan PID controller, having BIOS POST codes recorded and accessible, and managing networking ports and devices," Howells wrote.

"Whilst our current BMC is an industry standard, we feel that OpenBMC better suits our needs and gives us advantages such as allowing us to deal with upstream security issues without a dependency on our vendors.

"Some opportunities with security include integration of desired authentication modules, usage of specific software packages, staying up to date with the latest Linux kernel, and controlling a variety of attack vectors."

Howells rated Cloudflare's new servers as a refinement, rather than the "enormous" change between its ninth- and tenth-generation boxes that saw it go from dual-socket Intel servers to single-socket AMDs.

But the refinement delivered a huge payoff: the ability to handle "approximately 29 per cent more requests than generation ten without an increase in power consumption".

Howells's post states that Ampere's Arm servers also made its shortlist for eleventh-gen servers, and promised to reveal details of those designs in a future post.

He also wrote that he and Cloudflare value ongoing competition between AMD and Intel, "and we look forward to seeing how Intel's next generation shapes up".

Intel claims that new generation – named Sapphire Rapids – delivers a generational jump in performance and efficiency.

Cloudflare's decision to go with AMD shows it needs to. ®


Other stories you might like

  • NASA installs a new and improved algorithm to better track near-Earth asteroids

    Nearly 20 year-old software used to protect humanity gets an upgrade

    NASA has upgraded its near-Earth asteroid monitoring algorithm to model hazardous space rocks more accurately after nearly two decades, it announced on Tuesday.

    The new system, dubbed Sentry-II, is more powerful than its predecessor, Sentry. Astronomers working at the space agency's Center for Near Earth Object Studies can now automatically calculate thermal influences that nudge an asteroid’s orbit, potentially sending it hurtling towards our home planet.

    The so-called Yarkovsky effect describes the subtle and gradual change of motion when asteroids are heated by the Sun’s light. When asteroids spin, one side of its surface exposed to the star gets heated. As it continues to rotate, the hot region enters shade and cools down. Infrared energy is radiated outwards; the photons carry momentum and impart a tiny thrust on the asteroid. Over long periods of time, these small kicks can change their paths and knock them out of their original orbit.

    Continue reading
  • Facebook slapped with an eyepopping $150B lawsuit for spreading hate speech against Rohingya refugees

    Lawsuit claims social media giant's algos helped Myanmar military crackdown on the Rohingya

    Meta was sued on Tuesday for a whopping $150 billion in a class-action lawsuit for allegedly amplifying hate speech and aiding the Myanmar military in the genocide of the Rohingya people.

    The case, led by an anonymous Rohingya refugee living in the US, accuses the entity formerly known as Facebook of inciting hatred and inflicting real harm on the predominantly Muslim group for years. Not only did the social media platform ignore hate speech posts, it's alleged that the service's algorithms actively promoted anti-Rohingya propaganda as hundreds of thousands of people fled from Myanmar to escape persecution.

    Facebook has already acknowledged its role in the campaign, which saw an estimated 25,000 people perish and 700,000 forced from the country. The lawsuit also comes after ex-employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents demonstrating how its algorithms prioritized engagement over safety.

    Continue reading
  • Power management IC shortage holding cars, laptops, hostage

    Couple of cents-worth of kit causing big problems for the year to come

    The shortage of power management chips is worsening and holding back companies from building cars, PCs and items with batteries or an on-off switch, Trendforce said in a study this week.

    Power management ICs cost just a few cents, and are among cheap chips that include display driver and USB-C components that are in short supply. These chips are as important to PCs and other electronics as CPUs or memory.

    The demand for PMICs has gone through the roof with the emergence of electric cars and growing demand for PCs and consumer electronics during the past 20 plus months. Trendforce expects the prices will go up by 10 per cent to a six-year high of $0.23.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021