Intel Ships Xeon E5 Server Chips for Cloud, HPC Environments

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2011-09-15

Intel Ships Xeon E5 Server Chips for Cloud, HPC Environments

SAN FRANCISCO-Intel executives are readying new Xeon E5 "Sandy Bridge" server chips while also reiterating their intention to continue developing the Itanium platform.

Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, said during a briefing with journalists and analysts at the Intel Developer Forum here that Intel has begun revenue production of the Xeon E5 chip, which will hold up to eight cores and run up to 16 threads per second.

The chip will offer more performance than the current Xeon 5600 "Westmere" processors, introduced last year, including doubling the floating point capabilities and integrating the PCI-Express bus onto the processing, which will boost performance and improve energy efficiency, Skaugen said.

The Xeon E5 "is the most phenomenal chip we've delivered to the server market," he said.

The new chip, aimed at midrange servers with two and four sockets that work in cloud and high-performance computing (HPC) environments, will join the Sandy Bridge-based Xeon E3 for low-end systems and the current higher-end Westmere-based Xeon E7 chips, which offer up to 10 cores and were released in April.

Intel is seeing strong adoption from OEMs for the Xeon E5, with more than 400 system design wins, which is more than twice the number there was for the Xeon 5500 "Nehalem" processors, released in 2009. Skaugen said the rapid adoption of cloud computing and the growth of HPC are driving interest in the new Xeons.

He predicted that within 60 days of launching the chip, 90 percent of Intel's cloud computing customers will be making plans to transition to the Xeon E5. Servers running the Xeon E5 will begin hitting the market early in 2012, said Skaugen, who expects to sell the chip in "extremely high volumes."

During a briefing Sept. 14 at IDF, John Hengeveld, director of HPC strategies at Intel, said the Xeon E5 will offer significant improvements over current products.

"It's the foundation of the next-generation data center," Hengeveld said.

AMD Targets Cloud, Virtualized Workloads


The news of the shipping of the Xeon E5 chips comes a week after rival Advanced Micro Devices announced that it had begun shipping the first of its Opteron server processors based on the company's new "Bulldozer" architecture. AMD officials said they began shipping the 16-core Opteron 6200 Series "Interlagos" processors in August and that OEM systems based on the platform will begin appearing in the fourth quarter.

Like the Xeon E5, AMD's Interlagos processors also are targeting cloud environments and virtualized workloads. In an interview with eWEEK at a hotel near the IDF conference, John Taylor, director of client product and software marketing at AMD, said while the company is shipping Interlagos now, the official launch will come later this year. An announcement on the upcoming Bulldozer-based "Valencia" Opteron chips, which will hold six to eight cores and will be aimed at one- to two-socket servers, also is in the works.

AMD's efforts around Opteron are designed to dovetail with enterprise trends toward cloud and HPC, and the shift in corporations' focus away from capital costs and onto operational costs.

Intel's Skaugen said that even as the chip vendor grows its Xeon offerings, it will continue developing its Itanium platform. The company is still on target to release the next generation of the chip-dubbed "Poulson"-next year, which will double the performance of the current Itanium processor. Two years after Poulson will come "Kittson," which will double the performance of Poulson.

He also noted the continuing efforts to enable Itanium and Xeon-though based on different microarchitectures-to share features, including 25 common reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) capabilities. The result is two strong high-end server platforms, giving enterprises a wide number of options when looking at their workloads.

"It's really about operating system choice," Skaugen said.

Intel's plans for Itanium became the subject of debate earlier this year when Oracle officials announced Oracle would no longer develop its software for the Itanium platform, claiming Intel would soon be ending development of the technology. Intel executives, including President and CEO Paul Otellini, quickly refuted the claim, saying the chip maker had a roadmap that will carry development through the end of the decade.

Officials with Hewlett-Packard-by far the largest consumer of Itanium processors-called Oracle's decision a cynical move in hopes of boosting the flagging SPARC hardware portfolio it inherited through its $7.6 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Oracle became the third major software vendor to end support of Itanium, joining Microsoft and Red Hat. 

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