Cloudflare ditches Intel Xeon CPUs over “enormous” energy consumption

The firm’s 11th generation servers will be fitted with AMD EPYC 7713 CPUs instead

The latest generation of Cloudflare servers won’t be fitted with the Intel Xeon CPUs because of their "enormous" levels of energy consumption.

The company’s hardware engineering team had evaluated a variety of chips for its ‘generation 11’ servers, concluding the latest Intel Xeon CPUs, based on the Ice Lake architecture, aren't energy efficient enough to match its ambitions.

The firm has instead opted to continue using AMD EPYC CPUs for the servers that have been in development since mid-2020. This is because while the two lines are roughly on-par when it comes to performance, Cloudflare claims AMD chips consume less power. 

“We evaluated Intel’s latest generation of 'Ice Lake' Xeon processors,” said Cloudflare’s platform operations engineer Chris Howells

“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. This meant that Intel’s Performance per Watt was unattractive.”

This decision has been made in light of the company’s claims that it’s striving to reduce its operational costs and its overall power consumption in the way it fits its hardware together and runs it.  For instance, Cloudflare has recently transitioned from three Samsung 960GB drives to two 1.92TB units in order to gain a terabyte of capacity and lose six watts of power consumption.

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Intel launched its third-generation Intel Xeon data centre CPUs in April, claiming these are the only data centre processors with built-in AI and advanced security capabilities. 

Cloudflare, however, snubbed these CPUs in light of the fact the firm’s components didn’t meet its energy consumption requirements. However, Howells added, Cloudflare hasn’t ruled out using Intel CPUs in future generations of its servers.

The firm had previously deployed AMD EPYC 7642 processors in its ‘generation 10’ servers, with these 48-core CPUs based on AMD’s 2nd generation EPYC architecture, and codenamed Rome. Before this, Cloudflare used a dual-socket Intel platform in its ‘generation 9’ systems, with the jump between the previous two generations described as enormous.

For the ‘generation 11’ servers, Cloudflare evaluated Intel Xeon chips alongside AMD’s third-generation EPYC CPUs, codenamed Milan. Based on the performance levels of sample CPUs of varying core counts, Cloudflare opted for the 64-core AMD EPYC 7713 CPU to be fitted into these servers.

These chips will be fitted alongside 384GB DDR4-3200 RAM, an upgrade on the 256GB DDR4-2933 RAM configuration in the ‘generation 10’ servers.

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