X86 Server Watch; Intel E5-2600 Series Chips – Part 2

Trend Watch: X86 Server Take Over:

Intel’s New E5-2600 Series Chips

Part Two:

Intel launched its long-awaited Xeon E5-2600 family this past Tuesday, March 6th 2012. The new server chip is built on Sandy Bridge micro-architecture and was created to be compatible with 2- and 4- socket servers. It promises new levels of performance along with a set of capabilities never-before-seen on mainstream x86 severs. The new processors will not only be the heart of servers and workstations, but will also power the next generation of storage and communication systems from leading vendors around the world.

This is the first major industrial server equipment upgrade to the Xeon series since March 2010 and it is said to provide an 80% improvement in performance when compared to the previous Xeon 5600 series. Intel’s current portfolio of server chips includes low-end Xeon E3 chips based on the Sandy Bridge micro-architecture for servers with up to 2 sockets, and Xeon E7 chips for high-end servers, which has up to 10 cores and is based on the older Westmere architecture.

The new processor is aimed to meet the growing demands of cloud computing, consumerization, big data, and internet queries.

“The growth in cloud computing and connected devices is transforming the way businesses benefit from IT products and services. For businesses to capitalize on these innovations, the industry must address unprecedented demand for efficient, secure and high-performing data center infrastructure. The Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 product family is designed to address these challenges by offering unparalleled, balanced performance across compute, storage and network, while reducing operating costs,” said Diane Bryant, Intel vice president and general manager of the datacenter and connected systems group.

x86 Xeon E5 - 2

Bandwidth improvements have been built inside the chip to cut latency by 30%, which could help scale cloud deployments and the deployment of more virtual machines.

Intel estimates that there will be 15 billion connected devices and 3 billion connected users by 2015. Meanwhile, the amount of global data center IP traffic is forecast to grow by 33% annually, surpassing 4.8 zeta bytes per year – more than three times the amount in 2011.

The Xeon E5-2600 packs a lot of firsts. It is the first to integrate the PCI-Express 3.0 bus onto a processor, tripling the movement of data and reducing latency by up to 30%. In terms of I/O, it is the first to include Intel Data Direct, which allows Ethernet routers and adapters to route I/O traffic directly to the processor cache, reducing power consumption and latency. It supports up to eight cores per processor, with Hyper Threading effectively doubling that to 16 per socket. The new processors will also support more memory – up to 768GB in 24 slots – providing more DRAM for software applications and virtual machines to work with.

Intel correspondingly launched an Ethernet controller that brings 10-gigabit Ethernet closer to the motherboard, making it easier for companies to deploy the networking technology in servers. Server makers said that support for 10-Gigabit Ethernet at the motherboard level should shuffle network traffic a lot quicker in data centers.

Advanced Vector Extension (AVX) technology will help boost performance up to two times on compute-intensive applications like financial analysis and high performance computing, and the Xeon E5 processors will also come with a new version of the Turbo Boost 2.0 overclocking mechanism.

“The E5 will allow people on a standard data center footprint who have a limited power budget and footprint to do twice as much in the same footprint, because there’s a 50 percent greater efficiency,” said Steve Pawlowski, Intel senior fellow and CTO of the Digital Enterprise Group.

“For a company like Amazon to be able to provide tens of thousands of cores and not have to pay any more for the energy than they did before, while doubling the performance is huge. It depends on where you happen to be located, but energy costs roughly $1 million per megawatt, so anything that you can do to improve your performance and save is huge.”

Finally, the Xeon E5 family will now use Intel’s Advanced Encryption Standard New Instruction (AES-NI) to quickly encrypt and decrypt data running over a range of applications and transactions. The company claims that this, together with Intel’s Trusted Execution Technology, will help organizations protect their data centers against attack.

Intel has over 400 server designs with the new chip and IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell are among the first companies launching new servers. IBM claims its new two-socket BladeCenter HS23 is 62% faster, supports four times more memory and runs 20% more virtual machines than its predecessor, BladeCenter HS22.

Intel has already supplied E5 chips for a supercomputer called Stampede, which will be fully deployed in 2013 at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas. The supercomputer will deliver peak performance of 10 petaflops (or 10,000 trillion operations per second), with E5 chips handling 20% of the processing load, and a specialized Intel coprocessor called, Knights Corner, handling the other 80%.

Initially, 17 different versions of Xeon E5-2600 processors will be launched, priced from US $198 to $2,050, in quantities of 1,000. Additionally, three single-socket Intel Xeon processor E5-1600 parts will be offered for workstations, which will range in price from $284 to $1080.

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X86 Intel Server Watch; Intel E5-2600 Series Chips – Part One

Trend Watch: What is an X86 Server:

Intel’s New E5-2600 Series Chips

Part One:

This week I’ll be writing a two part series on the trend watch for X86 Intel Servers. As I’m sure you’re wondering, I’m aware that X86 processors are not a new thing. Yes, I know they have been around for the past few years and have been working their way into the industries heart as the processor of choice. However, with Gartner’s year-on-year survey conclusions and Intel’s March 6th release of their new E5-2600 series chips, there are a ton of exciting things to note and talk about. So with that I give you part one of Trend Watch: X86 Server Take Over; Intel’s New E5-2600 Series Chips.

It’s true X86 servers are not a new thing. They have been moving their way into data centers for the past few years and slowly, but surely have increased their presence, so much so, that they now dominate UNIX as the servers of choice. No longer are data centers a heterogeneous place, the variety of microprocessors that used to characterize our computer centers are now giving way to the uniform packs of X86 processors.

X86’s dominating presence is nothing new, as I’m sure you’ve been aware, their boxes have long since outsold UNIX and mainframes on a units-shipped basis. The biggest perpetuator causing UNIX to fall into the fiery pit of their demise came from Oracle’s 2009 purchase of Sun Microsystems, since then UNIX has slowly been sinking to its fiery death. In 2010, X86 servers represented the majority of server revenue as a whole, estimated by IDC at 66.1% in Q310. That folks was not just a trend, but instead the tipping point in an industry standard.

Revenue for X86 servers and other hardware

What is different about these servers, however, is that “Customers aren’t standardizing on a particular brand of x86 system,” said Dan Olds, principal at GCG. “Only a tiny number of customers have settled on a single x86 system provider, despite every effort by vendors to convince them to do so such as financial inducements, systems management that makes it easier to handle large numbers of servers from a single family, and blade form factors that would tend to yield a bit of vendor lock-in.” All vendors use the same AMD and Intel chips, the same RAM and the same disks, leaving the only differential, really, to price.

The Gartner survey, conducted in February 2012, analyzed year-over-year changes in server revenue and shipments, as well as percent market share, from server vendors like; IBM, HP, Dell, Oracle, Fujitsu, and Lenovo. They concluded that the primary driving force behind growth in the server market was the large scale deployment of X86 servers and the increase in cloud computing. Worldwide server shipments increased by 7% in 2011, with an increase of 4.5% in Q411. At the same time, worldwide server revenue increased by 7.9% in 2011, despite a decline of 5.4% in Q411. Pretty impressive stats, given the supply shortage caused by the October floods in Thailand, which caused inventory problems and greatly affected vendor’s ability to meet demands in Q4.

X86 Server in the market

“The outlook for 2012 suggests that growth will continue,” said Jeffery Hewitt, research V.P. at Gartner. “These increases continue to be buffered by the use of x86 server virtualization to consolidate physical machines as they are replaced, but the introduction of new processors from Intel and AMD is likely to help fuel and initiate a new round of server equipment replacementcycles.”

With the release of Intel’s E5-2600 series chips on Tuesday March, 6 2012, the industry is about to see another huge round of server replacement cycles. In part two of this week’s blog, Trend Watch: X 86 Servers Take Over; Intel’s New E5-2600 Series Chips, I will give you all of the latest and greatest information on Intel’s newest chips, so get excited for the next post!