Intel Looks to Drive Cloud Adoption with New Xeon Server Chips

The Xeon E5-2600 v4 processors are key to creating software-defined IT environments to accelerate businesses' move to the cloud, officials say.

Intel chip

Intel officials a year ago kicked off what they called the Intel Cloud for All strategy, an effort designed to accelerate the adoption of cloud computing by businesses that includes not only the chip maker's silicon products for cloud environments, but also helping to create the ecosystem around cloud infrastructures and open standards.

At the time, the officials said that while businesses want to embrace the cloud, the technology is too complex to implement on a large scale, which has been a drag on cloud adoption by the enterprise.

At an event in San Francisco March 31, Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, introduced the latest generation of Xeon E5 server and workstation processors that she and other officials said has the features and enhancements that will enable businesses to more easily adopt cloud computing and manage the processing demand coming from the fast-growing mobile computing space.

At the same time, the world's largest chip maker also introduced new solid-state drives—including the company's first 3D NAND drives that are optimized for cloud and enterprise workloads—and announced collaborations with a broad array of cloud software and solutions providers and new industry programs aimed at making it easier for enterprises to run their workloads in the cloud. Among the partners are VMware, CoreOS, Mirantis and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, a Linux Foundation project aimed at creating computing optimized for distributed system environments.

"For today's enterprises, competitiveness increasingly hinges on IT agility," Jennifer Huffstetler, director of data center product marketing, wrote in a post on the company blog. "In simple terms, a digitally driven business—which is now virtually all businesses—can move no faster than its IT infrastructure. This new reality for the enterprise is accelerating the shift to public, private, and hybrid clouds enabled by software defined infrastructure (SDI)."

According to company officials, about half of all applications now are delivered through the cloud, though that will increase to about 85 percent by 2020. In addition, about 66 percent of cloud demand comes from consumer services from top cloud service providers. Enterprises and service providers are pushing to more quickly grow their cloud computing capabilities.

However, for many of these businesses, getting to the cloud can be difficult, hindered by complexity, fragmentation of solution stacks and a lack of key features, Huffstetler wrote. The company has been trying to address the concerns through the Cloud for All initiative and its Cloud Builders program. The new products announced in San Francisco are more steps in that direction, and at the center of it are the new Xeon E5-2600 v4 "Broadwell" processors.

The new processors—27 in all—offer performance and efficiency gains over the current "Haswell" Xeon E5 chips. They're smaller—the Broadwell chips are 14-nanometer, while Haswell is 22nm—come with up to 22 cores, compared with the up to 18 cores in Haswell, and more threads per core—up to 44 compared with up to 36. On the transistor count, the most powerful of the Broadwell chips is 7.2 billion transistors, compared with 5.6 billion in its Haswell counterpart.

The new chips offer up to 44 percent better performance, 24 percent faster message rate due to the use of Intel's Omni-Path architecture (which will come later in the year), improved server utilization and better virtualization performance, including reducing virtual machine (VM) downtime by as much as 70 percent.

The new processors, designed for scale-out environments, will help create the SDI that will offer the flexibility, agility and scalability needed to drive adoption of the cloud, Intel officials said during a workshop with journalists earlier this month. Among the new features is Intel's Resource Director Technology for improved orchestration and utilization inside the data center. The technology allows for fully-automated clouds and better control over share resources, such as processor caches and main memory, enhancing the agility and scalability of the infrastructure.

There is 20 percent more cache in the new chips, which also support faster memory, and include new security features for workload isolation, faster cryptography with ADOX and ADCX technologies, and security policy enforcement. They range in core counts from four to 22, speeds between 1.7GHz and 3.5GHz and power envelopes between 55 watts and 160W.