Cloudflare chooses AMD to power its new generation of servers

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The cloud services provider rejects Intel due to power consumption concerns.

Cloudflare this week announced that it will not be putting Intel chips into its new generation of servers. The reason they gave was that the Intel silicon uses too much energy. Chris Howells, a System Engineer at Cloudflare, said in a blog post this week that Cloudflare has been working on designs for an eleventh-generation server since mid-2020.

“Requests per Watt is one of our defining characteristics when testing new hardware,” Howells explains. “We continually strive to reduce our operational costs and power consumption reduction is one of the most important parts of this.” “It’s good for the planet and we can fit more servers into a rack, reducing our physical footprint,” he added.

Cloudflare is focused on the climate

Indeed, Cloudflare has announced it will power its networks on 100% renewable energy and remove all historical carbon from its global network by 2025. With such lofty environmental goals in mind, it is no wonder that energy consumption ranks high on theier list of criteria.

“We evaluated Intel’s latest generation of ‘Ice Lake’ Xeon processors,” Howells wrote. “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.”

Cloudflare previously had deployed AMD EPYC 7642’s processors in their generation 10 server. This has 48 cores and is based on AMD’s 2nd generation EPYC architecture, code named Rome. For their generation 11 server, Cloudflare evaluated 48, 56 and 64 core samples based on AMD’s 3rd generation EPYC architecture, code named Milan. The Cloudflare engineers were interested to find that comparing the two 48 core processors directly, they saw a performance boost of several percent in the 3rd generation EPYC architecture.

“So, based on the samples we received from our vendors and our subsequent testing, hardware from AMD and Ampere made the shortlist for our generation 11 server,” Howells states.

“On this occasion, we decided that Intel did not meet our requirements. However, it’s healthy that Intel and AMD compete and innovate in the x86 space and we look forward to seeing how Intel’s next generation shapes up.”