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Eight-core Xeon processors suit high-end servers

Posted: 05 Apr 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:processor? x86 server? CPU?

Xeon 7500

Chip giant Intel Corp. has launched its new high-end x86 server processors, the Xeon 7500 family, which uses up to eight dual-threaded cores. The chips will see use in servers from more than twice as many OEMs as Intel's previous high-end server CPUs, including an SGI system delivering a up to 256 processors.

"We think this could transform the $16 billion business in servers using proprietary processor architectures, making a shift to the Intel x86," said Kirk Skaugen, VP of the Intel architecture group and general manager of Intel's data center group.

The news came after archrival Advanced Micro Devices rolled out its Opteron 6000, aka Magny Cours, with up to 12 single-threaded cores in a two-die package. Analysts said the two chips will be competitive with neither side delivering a crushing blow.

The Xeon 7500 family, formerly Nehalem-EX, comes in versions with four, six or eight cores running at speeds from 1.86GHz to 2.26GHz and consuming 95-, 105- or 130W. The chips will pack from 12- to 24Mbyte L3 cache and cost from $856 to $3,692.

Intel listed as many as 20 new benchmarks for systems using the Xeon 7500 it claimed were world records. They included a 64-processor SGI Altix system, as well as multiple eight and four-way servers.

At least 12 server makersincluding Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Oracle's Sun divisionwill design systems using eight or more of the processors. Supermicro announced a design that packs four processors in a 1U-sized rack, and a French research group announced plans for a supercomputer that could use as many as 18,000 of the CPUs.

As part of its drive to the high end, Intel designed as many as 20 mainframe-class features for reliability and availability into the 7500. They include machine-check architecture, a recovery feature that can detect and mark multi-bit memory errors due to alpha rays or other causes. The feature, one of many that is a first for an x86 chip, is supported under certain versions of Windows, Solaris and Red Hat Linux.

SGI designed an ASIC to link multiple four-way server cards inside its Altix UV system, creating a server with up to 256 processors. SGI worked with Intel to link its cache coherent ASIC to the Quick Path Interconnect embedded on the Xeon 7500 that can link as many as eight processors without external logic.

The SGI NUMAlink chip uses its own protocol to manage data coherence between nodes in the system. "There was a collaboration and technical engagement at a pretty deep level with Intel," said Jill Matzke, product marketing manager of shared memory systems at SGI.

SGI has already set a record for shared-memory systems in tests on a 64-processor version of the system. "This validates our claim this is the world's fastest shared-memory system," said Geoffrey Noer, senior director of product marketing at SGI.

The Altix system is aimed at data-intensive applications including large simulations and database analytics.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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