Doubling your performance
We recently underwent a major infrastructure upgrade to our cloud in Zurich. And we’ll be rolling out similar upgrades across all our locations through the rest of 2015. One of the key elements to that upgrade was moving away from AMD based processors to Intel ones. As CEO I wanted to take this opportunity to write to let you know why we made that change. Also some of the really great things it does for our cloud and how you can take advantage of them.
All cloud servers are already being automatically allocated to the new Intel E5-2697 v3 in Zurich. So when you boot up any cloud server with us you will automatically get high end Intel processors.
Make sure you have your CPU set to ‘HOST CPU’ to benefit from native Intel instruction. Also, set exposure which can seriously boost certain workloads (like encryption and media encoding). Read about how to tune your cloud server CPU settings for maximum performance.
Why we switched to Intel
We are always looking for ways to give customers better value. We look at value for our customers in two ways. Firstly, it’s what features we have and do they allow you to achieve your aims from your cloud infrastructure. The second aspect of value is the price/performance point that we offer. This is what we’ll look into in a little more detail in this blog post.
Same Price, Twice the Performance
When it came to renew our hardware in Zurich we looked again at all the CPU offerings on the market. The last time we reviewed things AMD were offering a very good balance of price and performance and a fabric that allowed a high number of cores. This is great for virtualisation and allows us to offer a wide VM sizing range which is important for quite a few of our long standing customers.
The new v3 range of Intel processors not only had a higher per socket core count (at a reasonable price) than previous generations but also had some critical improvements to performance under virtualisation:
- Up to two times the performance on floating point and encryption workloads
- DDR4 RAM delivering up to 50% more bandwidth versus DDR3
- faster networking & storage performance
As a result, the real performance that you see as a customer is much much higher than with other alternatives on the market. Here is a ranking table of various CPUs and you can see that the Intel E5-2697 v3 ranks #2 from a very long list:
Tom’s Hardware has this to say about the Intel E5 v3:
“In terms of performance per core, unless your software is optimized to exploit AVX 2.0, Haswell’s biggest benefits come from the architecture’s inherent IPC tweaks. Where Haswell-EP really shines is its higher core counts that help scale performance accordingly in well-parallelized workloads.”
Most important of all, because of these improvements and tweaks to our own cloud stack, we’ve been able to roll out this CPU upgrade whilst keeping the price of our service unchanged. For most customers with a CPU element to their computing performance, they will see at least double the performance from the previous AMD cores. Put another way, we just halved our prices on a price/performance basis, this hot on the heels of the 60% price reduction in January of this year.
Faster per Core Performance
We know for many customers, they have workloads that are single threaded and in some cases these processes are the bottleneck that determine the speed of their entire system. Being able to offer a higher per core throughput rate with the new Intel v3s means single threaded processes will now run at a much higher throughput, lifting in many cases the performance of their entire deployment.
Additionally, customers that are using commercial software with per core licensing such as Microsoft SQL Server, will now be able to achieve their requirement performance with less cores saving significant amounts on licensing going forward.
Less Maintenance Disruptions
We’ve been working internally on being able to live migrate cloud servers between compute nodes in our cloud locations. Being able to achieve this would allow us to avoid a good percentage of the current scheduled maintenances when bugs in the Linux kernel or security vulnerabilities require us to upgrade the physical compute layer software and requiring a reboot.
What we’ve found from our testing is that live migration of virtual machines between AMD processors isn’t that reliable, in fact we have found a 10% failure rate. In contrast, we’ve have very good success with Intel processors.
We are still ironing out some of the kinks but we are very close to implementing live migration within our cloud deployments. It’s a major priority right now. Therefore, we look forward to being able to offer you a significant reduction in service affecting maintenances in the near future.
Give us your feedback
We really hope you feel and appreciate the upgrade to our cloud, we’d love to hear from you and your experiences so far. How has the change to Intel affected your cloud performance? We do use such feedback to directly impact and priorities our internal development and operational priorities to keep improving the service that we offer you.
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