Best AMD EPYC Processors for SQL Server


In this post, I am going to discuss the best AMD EPYC Processors for SQL Server usage. If you are going to buy an AMD-based server for SQL Server usage, you should be looking at the processors SKUs from my list. These are the Best AMD EPYC Processors for SQL Server.

On August 7, 2019, AMD released their new 7nm EPYC 7002 Series of server processors. This is the second generation EPYC server processor that uses the same Zen 2 architecture as the AMD Ryzen 3000 Series desktop processors. These new processors are socket compatible with the previous generation AMD EPYC 7001 Series processors, so they will work in existing model servers (with a BIOS update). Despite that, you will need a new model server to be able to actually use PCIe 4.0 support from the newer processors.

Figure 1: AMD EPYC CPU Roadmap

Since last August, most server vendors have introduced new model servers that will let you take advantage of the PCIe 4.0 support in these processors. If you are looking at a new AMD-based server, make sure it is one of these newer models!

Here are a few examples:

SQL Server 2019 Licensing Basics

SQL Server uses core-based licensing, since the release of SQL Server 2012. For SQL Server 2019, the price per core is $1,793.00 for Standard Edition and $6,874.00 for Enterprise Edition. Licenses are sold in two-packs, with a minimum of four core licenses per physical processor or virtual machine.

Thankfully, Microsoft does not vary the core license cost based on the actual or relative performance of the processor(s) you are using. The cost per core is the same whether you are using an old slow processor or a brand new, very fast processor.

Knowing this, you can (and absolutely should) put some careful thought into exactly which processor you choose for a new server that will be used for SQL Server. If you do a good job with your processor choice, you can save a huge amount on your licensing costs. You can also get better single-threaded performance and have more total CPU capacity.

Best AMD EPYC Processors for SQL Server

The table below shows the “best” AMD EPYC 7002 processors for SQL Server at various core counts. The TPC-Score is a measure of the total CPU capacity of the system. The score/core is a measure of the single-threaded CPU performance of the processor. It measures how “fast” the processor is.

Finally, the license cost is how much it would cost to license SQL Server 2019 Enterprise Edition for a one-socket server. These are all estimated TPC-E scores (based on my calculations) that are based on the actual TPC-E submission for a one-socket AMD EPYC 7742 system.

Best AMD EPYC Processors for SQL Server
Best AMD EPYC Processors for SQL Server

Some Analysis

Unlike Intel, AMD does not do a lot of product segmentation in their EPYC 7002 series. They have fewer total SKUs, and there are fewer artificial limits based on price. AMD EPYC 7002 series processors work in one and two-socket servers. Processors with a “P” in the model number only work in one-socket servers and they are less expensive as a result. AMD does not sell any “crippled” SKUs (like the Intel Xeon Silver and Bronze families).

If you look closely at the numbers in Figure 1, you may notice some interesting differences. Even though these are the best choices at each physical core count, some core counts are better than others. Similar to Intel, lower core count AMD SKUs tend to have higher base clock speeds.

As a result, if you know you will be using SQL Server 2019 Standard Edition (with it’s 24 core per instance license limit), then you should not get a system with more than 24 cores. That fact means that you should be looking at an AMD EPYC 7402 or lower core count for a one-socket system in that scenario.

Further Reading

Here are a few recent posts that cover AMD EPYC processors:

Final Words

AMD has revitalized the x86 server market with their AMD EPYC 7002 processors. They have given customers an alternative to Intel, and they have forced Intel to react. Intel has made some very significant price reductions and they have released some new Cascade Lake Refresh SKUs as a response.

Unlike several years ago, AMD is a viable choice for SQL Server workloads. AMD has closed the gap quite a bit on single-threaded CPU performance (although it is not completely closed yet). EPYC 7002 Series processors are ideally suited for DW workloads because of their memory density and bandwidth along with their PCIe 4.0 support.

I recently wrote a companion piece called “Best Intel Xeon Processors for SQL Server

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerryThanks for reading!

Categories AMD, PC Hardware, SQL ServerTags , , ,

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