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AMD bests Intel in cloud CPU performance study

Overall price-performance in Big 3 hyperscalers a dead heat, says CockroachDB

AMD's processors have come out on top in terms of cloud CPU performance across AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, according to a recently published study.

The multi-core x86-64 microprocessors Milan and Rome and beat Intel Cascade Lake and Ice Lake instances in tests of performance in the three most popular cloud providers, research from database company CockroachDB found.

Using the CoreMark version 1.0 benchmark – which can be limited to run on a single vCPU or execute workloads on multiple vCPUs – the researchers showed AMD's Milan processors outperformed those of Intel in many cases, and at worst statistically tied with Intel's latest-gen Ice Lake processors across both the OLTP and CPU benchmarks.

"In past years, we saw Intel lead the pack in overall performance, with AMD competing on price-for-performance metrics. This year, both the overall performance leader and the price-for-performance leader were AMD-based instances," the research says.

Among the large instance types, GCP's t2d (Tau, using third generation AMD EPYC processors) instance was followed by its n2-standard instance running Intel Ice Lake processors. "AWS's large M6i instance, which also uses Ice Lake processors, finished third, and other AWS instances rounded out the top ten. Two of the Azure AMD instance types had individual runs that could have broken into the top ten, but when looking at median runs they were less performant than either AWS or GCP's offerings," the report adds.

Elsewhere in its study, CockroachDB found all three major cloud providers have similarly price-competitive offers.

"When it comes to price (and performance) all three clouds were in a statistical dead heat. Even instance and storage combinations that are a bit more expensive are potentially very competitive depending on the requirements of a specific workload," the study reveals.

Meanwhile, the database company warned storage and transfer costs had become more important than the total cost to operate on a given cloud provider.

Storage and data transfer can become "hidden costs", having a larger impact on total cost than the price of the instances themselves, especially when it comes to building a highly resilient stateful application, it warns.

Keith McClellan, director of partner solutions engineering at Cockroach Labs, said: "If there is one point to take away from this year's report, especially if I were a CIO or CTO building a globally distributed application concerned about cost when picking a cloud provider. I would focus on the network transfer cost. Our findings really shine a light on each cloud's total cost to operate." ®

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