I've seen quite a few folks touting the Opteron as 2.5x faster with postgres than a Xeon box. What makes the Opteron so quick? Is it that Postgres really prefers to run in 64-bit mode?
I don't know about 2.5x faster (perhaps on specific types of loads), but the reason Opterons rock for database applications is their insanely good memory bandwidth and latency that scales much better than the Xeon. Opterons also have a ccNUMA-esque I/O fabric and two dedicated on-die memory channels *per processor* -- no shared bus there, closer to real UNIX server iron than a glorified PC.
We run a large Postgres database on a dual Opteron in 32-bit mode that crushes Xeons running at higher clock speeds. It has little to do with bitness or theoretical instruction dispatch, and everything to do with the superior memory controller and I/O fabric. Databases are all about moving chunks of data around and the Opteron systems were engineered to do this very well and in a very scalable fashion. For the money, it is hard to argue with the price/performance of Opteron based servers. We started with one dual Opteron postgres server just over a year ago (with an equivalent uptime) and have considered nothing but Opterons for database servers since. Opterons really are clearly superior to Xeons for this application. I don't work for AMD, just a satisfied customer. :-)
re: 6 disks. Unless you are tight on disk space, a hot spare might be nice as well depending on your needs.
J. Andrew Rogers
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