Epyc arrives for real in the new HPE ProLiant DL385 Gen10

Updated: Tier 1 validations take time to do right

HPE logoHPE finally put out the DL385 Gen10, their first Epyc server and it comes with some interesting messaging. Although SemiAccurate can’t find the new line on the HPE site, the initial info is good enough.

Update November 20, 2017@12:15PM: Changed DL325 to DL385 in a few places. Derp.

There have been all sorts of rumors floating about Epyc and it’s lack of availability from a Tier 1 server vendor. The rumor mill was atwitter with alleged problems, delays, and things that clearly didn’t make sense. It seems that none of the supposed experts pontificating about these ‘problems’ bothered to do the slightest checking in with the parties involved. If they did, they would have found that the normal server validation process was going through and nothing was actually amiss.

That brings us to today and the first Tier 1 Epyc launch, the HPE (I still can’t get used to that name…) ProLiant DL385 Gen10 server. Other than this being the first AMD server design that is worth the name server in the last near decade, it comes with some very interesting messaging around security, virtualization, and economics.

The economics comes in with the price of Epyc, a small fraction of the price of Intel’s new Xeons. More importantly Intel is more constrained on Tier 1 pricing than AMD is so the MSRPs are probably less skewed than what the OEMs pay. Both heavily favor AMD for performance per dollar, TCO, and the related metrics that buyers care about. That leads to curious slides like the one below from the recent UBS conference where Intel puts in more fine print than information but refuses to disclose actual benchmark configurations. Any guesses why?

Back to HPE and the DL385 Gen10 server. Virtualization is a must have, especially for the large cloud providers. Intel was attacking Epyc on scalability and latency, something which the benchmarks clearly showed but real world use cases didn’t track. AMD is way ahead here because of core count and pricing. AMD offers 32C machines for ~$4000, a 28C Xeon with crippled memory caps is ~$10,000, and a price competitive ~$4000 Xeon only has 24C. If you look to those selling virtualized servers on the net, they price by server count and memory.

Last up is a unique feature to HPE, security. They claim the DL385 Gen10 has Secure Encrypted Memory and Secure Encrypted Virtualization, both standard Epyc features SemiAccurate talked about before. You would expect this, and it is something that users care about and Intel can’t match for at least a year with their Xeons. Don’t gloss over this, security matters and this is a real advance, even if it is not the unique feature HPE added.

That new twist is what they call the HPE Silicon Root of Trust. It is a ‘link’, whatever that means, between the iLO (Integrated Lights Out) management board and the HPE iLO firmware. This feature scans the Epyc Firmware to make sure it hasn’t been compromised before boot, and like all similar hardware management boards, it works out of band with the system so it should be much more secure. Why is this important? So a vendor ignoring standard security practices like Intel doesn’t bite your company. (Note: SemiAccurate feels AMD is way ahead of Intel in security and is doing the right things for the right reasons.)

So until HPE puts the DL385 Gen10 on their web site with numbers and prices, we can’t actually compare them against their Intel based counterparts. We can say that AMD offers vastly higher memory capacities, higher core counts, and competitive performance for lower CPU costs. Much of that comes out in the wash when comparing systems, but security features don’t. Unless your organization simply does not care about security, you should put the HPE DL385 Gen10 on the top of your datacenter holiday gift list.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate