Intel has announced its intentions to sway high-density data centre customers away from rival AMD's Magny-Cours offering, launching the Intel Xeon E7 series with up to ten physical processing cores per chip.
Designed for the mission-critical high-performance computing market, Intel's latest Xeons offer the ability to pack more processing cores in a smaller space than has previously been possible - although still fall short of the twelve-core chips on offer from rival AMD.
Built around a 32nm manufacturing process, which keeps the size and energy consumption down low enough for the many-core chips to operate effectively, the Xeon E7 range offers impressive features for those who need seriously power servers in their data centres. The chips support 32GB memory modules, allowing users to pack up to 2TB in a quad-socket system, and include 102GB/s of memory bandwidth.
The ten processing cores support Intel's Hyper Threading technology in order to run two threads per core, presenting themselves to the system as a twenty-thread chip - meaning quad-socket systems that include forty physical processing cores and the ability to run eighty simultaneous threads. Up to 30MB of last-level cache helps keep the chip supplied with data and instructions, too.
All this extra power doesn't come at an efficiency cost, Intel claims. According to the company's testing, an equivalent Xeon E7 offers 25 per cent more processing cores and last-level cache along with twice the maximum memory capacity than the last-generation Xeon 7500 series while maintaining the same power envelope. The E7 range also includes support for low-voltage DIMMs and Intel's Intelligent Power Technology, which uses integrated power gates to drop the power draw of unused processing cores to a claimed 0W at idle.
In order to make the E7 range easier to sell to mission critical users, Intel has also included some new reliability features: Machine Check Architecture Recovery, or MCA-R, is designed to help the system ignore certain memory errors and stay stable, and combines with Double Device Data Correction which is able to ignore the loss of up to two memory devices and still recover data. Partial Memory Mirroring is handy for system administrators on a budget, too - allowing only critical portions of memory to be mirrored in order to avoid having to add twice as much RAM as would otherwise be required.
The E7 range will include ten-core, eight-core, and six-core models with TDPs ranging from 95W to 130W - but buyers need to be careful which model they choose, as some - such as the eight-core Xeon E7-8837 - fail to include the Hyper Threading technology. End-user pricing has yet to be confirmed on any model in the range, but the units should start showing up in UK channels imminently.