Intel is launching the latest version of its high-end Xeon E7 server processors with its eye firmly on the growing data analytics needs in the enterprise.
Officials with the chip maker on June 6 unveiled the Xeon E7-8800/4800 v4 product families that are built on the company’s “Broadwell-EX” core architecture and offer significant gains in such areas as performance and memory capacity, and target scale-up server environments. While the 14-nanometer chips can be applied to a broad range of mission-critical applications, such as data-intensive workloads, including online transaction processing (OLTP), supply-chain management and enterprise resource planning (ERP), the primary aim is to make it easier, faster and more affordable for enterprises to collect and analyze in real time the massive amounts of structured and unstructured data being generated and to turn those analyses into actionable business decisions.
The new Xeon E7s, which primarily target four- and eight-socket servers, will enable organizations to drive down overall capital and operation costs by getting more work done per system, therefore needing fewer systems, officials said. That will be important as not only the amount of data grows, but also as the number of sources of that data proliferates.
“Data is only valuable if the money you get out of it is more than what you had to put in to get it,” Frank Jensen, performance marketing manager for Intel’s Data Center Group (DCG), said during a workshop in March about the upcoming Xeon E7 v4 processors.
Systems vendors agree, as top OEMs—including Dell, Lenovo and Fujitsu—announced new and upgraded servers that will be powered by the new processors.
The new chips come less than three months after Intel rolled out the latest iterations of the midrange Xeon E5 processors. The Xeon E5-2600 v4 chips are aimed at workstations and servers, with features that will enable businesses to more easily adopt cloud computing environments and manage the compute demand coming from mobile computing devices.
With the new Xeon E7s, Intel officials are looking to drive the development of high-performing, highly reliable servers that will enable enterprises to manage the tidal wave of data coming at them, particularly from new sources, such as the Internet of things (IoT). Trying to gain insight from data is nothing new, according to Ed Goldman, enterprise segment CTO of DCG. However, it is growing fast—67 percent expected growth between 2015 and 2020—he said.
“Analytics has been around for a long time,” Goldman said during the March workshop. “As soon as applications began to exist, people have been analyzing them.”
However, the rapid growth in data is “significant to the portfolio and it’s significant to what’s going on in the market,” he said.
The new Xeon E7 v4 chips offer up to 24 cores per chip, more than the 18 cores on their predecessors. They also offer more instruction threads—48 for the new processors, to 36 to the Xeon E7 v3 chips—and up to 60MB of last-level cache. The previous chips offered up to 45MB. The 8800/4800 families include eight chips for a range of system types, as well as two chips optimized for the enterprise database market segment and another optimized processor for high-performance computing (HPC).
The new processors also come with an array of new and enhanced features around virtualization, security, performance and RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability), officials said. They said the new chips not only offer improved performance when compared with the previous-generation Xeon E7 processors, but also when tested against IBM’s Power architecture. Benchmark tests show a 24-core Xeon E7 v4 bringing as much as 1.3 times the scaling of an 18-core predecessor.
In addition, they deliver twice the memory support—up to 24TB—and twice as many analytics queries as the previous version. Intel officials also said enterprises can use fewer systems with the new chips to get the same amount of work done. A hundred 10-core, four-socket E7-4870 v1 processors can be replaced by 33 24-core, four-socket E7-8890 v4 chips, saving up to 92 percent in network and maintenance costs, 73 percent in power and cooling costs and 67 percent in software licensing, they said.
Intel Targets High-End Analytics with New Xeon E7 v4 Processors
As another example, 20 two-socket, 22-core E5-2699 v4 chips can be replaced by nine four-socket, 24-core E7-8890 v4 chips.
Against IBM’s Power8 E870 chips, an eight-socket E7-8890 v4 can offer up to 40 percent better performance and 10 times the performance per dollar while using half the power, Intel officials said.
The new chips are part of a multi-pronged approach to data analytics by Intel. While the Xeon E7 v4 chips are aimed at scale-up in-memory systems for database and analytics workloads, the company also offers the new Xeon E5s as well as the many-core Xeon Phi chips and the field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) for scale-out environments. These cover such areas as high-performance big data analytics, machine and deep learning, and modeling and simulation.
Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy, said Intel officials have done a smart thing in focusing on different segments of the analytics space, from diagnostic and predictive analytics to the increasingly complex prescriptive and cognitive analytics.
“It’s a broad spectrum,” Moorhead told eWEEK. “Intel really brought some simplicity to the conversation. … It helps their story in a way, but it’s accurate.”
He also said the company over the years has done a good job bringing more RAS features—there are more than 70 in the new Xeon E7 v4 chips—to its high-end Xeons, enabling them to better compete with IBM’s Power and Oracle’s SPARC chips in a four- and eight-socket server space that isn’t growing quickly but is still important to such industries as banking, transportation and telecommunications. The new chips also have to compete with Intel’s own Itanium platform, which powers much of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s high-end business-critical systems.
Some server OEMs already are embracing the new chips. Dell officials announced upgrades to four of its PowerEdge servers, including the four-socket R930 and R830, which will have the new chips, and FX2 and M1000e converged platforms, which will feature the FC830 and M830 blade servers with the new Xeon E5-4600 v4 processors.
Lenovo, which is building out its server portfolio after buying IBM’s x86 server business two years ago for $2.3 billion, is upgrading its x3850 and x3950 X6 servers, while Fujitsu is bringing the new Xeon E7 v4 chips to its PrimeQuest servers.