CPU platforms

When you start a virtual machine (VM) instance on Compute Engine, the VM uses one of the available CPU platforms. A CPU platform contains one of the available CPUs described in the following tables. Compute Engine offers both Intel and AMD processors for your VMs.

Unless otherwise specified, a VM instance uses the default processor of the zone where the instance is to run. You can optionally specify another processor instead of the default processor, if the machine series is offered on multiple CPU platforms and another processor is available in the selected zone. For a list of zones and the available processors, see Regions and zones.

For all processors available on Compute Engine, a single CPU core can run as multiple hardware multithreads through Simultaneous multithreading (SMT), which is known on Intel processors as Intel Hyper-Threading Technology. On Compute Engine, each hardware multithread is called a virtual CPU (vCPU). The machine type of your VM specifies its number of vCPUs, and you can infer its number of physical CPU cores using the default vCPU per core ratio for that machine series:

  • For the Tau T2D machine series, VMs always have one vCPU per core.
  • For all other machine series, VMs have two vCPUs per core by default.
    • You can optionally set a VM to have one vCPU per core instead of two vCPUs per core, which might benefit some workloads. Importantly, when you do this, the machine type of your VM no longer reflects the correct number of vCPUs. Instead, the pricing and number of physical CPU cores remains the same as it would be for the default two vCPUs per core ratio, and the number of vCPUs is half of value indicated by the machine type.

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Intel processors

The following table describes Intel processors that are available for Compute Engine VMs. They are listed in reverse chronological order (newest first).

CPU processor Supported VMs Base frequency (GHz) All-core turbo frequency (GHz) Single-core max turbo frequency (GHz)
Intel Xeon Scalable Processor (Ice Lake)
3rd Generation
2.6 3.4 3.5
Intel Xeon Scalable Processor (Cascade Lake)
2nd Generation
2.8 3.4 3.9
3.1 3.8 3.9
2.5 3.4 4.0
2.2 2.9 3.7
Intel Xeon Scalable Processor (Skylake)
1st Generation
2.0 2.7 3.5
Intel Xeon E7 (Broadwell E7) 2.2 2.6 3.3
Intel Xeon E5 v4 (Broadwell E5) 2.2 2.8 3.7
Intel Xeon E5 v3 (Haswell) 2.3 2.8 3.8
Intel Xeon E5 v2 (Ivy Bridge) 2.5 3.1 3.5
Intel Xeon E5 (Sandy Bridge) 2.6 3.2 3.6

*N2 machine types that are larger than 80 vCPUs use the Intel Ice Lake CPU.

AMD processors

The following table describes AMD processors available for Compute Engine VMs:

CPU platform Supported VMs Base frequency (GHz) Effective frequency (GHz) Max boost frequency (GHz)
3rd Generation
2.45 2.8 3.5
2nd Generation
2.25 2.7 3.3

Frequency behavior

This document describes the hardware specifications of the CPUs that are available on Compute Engine, but keep the following points in mind:

  • Most VMs get the all-core turbo frequency, even if only the base frequency is advertised to the guest environment.
  • A VM's guest environment reflects the base clock frequency, regardless of what frequency the VM is actually running at.
  • C-state is only supported for C2 machines types. For other VMs, C-State or P-State is not supported at this time, so idling virtual CPUs within the guest environment might not work as expected.
  • Base clock frequency: A lower bound on CPU frequency, and the frequency at which the time stamp counter (TSC) increments.
  • All-core turbo frequency: The frequency at which each CPU typically runs when all cores in the socket are not idle at the same time.

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