Intel launches giant Xeon

Intel has launched its largest Xeon server processor to date, putting eight x86 processors and 24MB of cache onto a chip that is close to the limit of how large a single die can be made.

Intel has made similarly large chips based on the 64bit Itanium architecture. But the Nehalem-EX 7500, which is made on a 45nm process rather than the newer 32nm technology used for its Westmere desktop and some recently launched Xeon server-class processors, is the largest of the x86-based multiprocessors that Intel has made. The Dunnington series of processors, also made on the company’s 45nm process, have a maximum die size of just over 500mm2.

Shannon Poulin, director of Xeon platforms at Intel, said the company expects to produce successors based on a 32nm process, that would reduce the die size, but added that the company has not announced a schedule for the shrink.

With the Nehalem-EX, Intel aims to go after high-end servers and to offer the device, together with six-core C5600 series Xeon multiprocessors, as a way of consolidating multiple servers into one, saving power and floorspace.

Based on energy consumption alone, Poulin claimed a single ‘four-slot’ blade based on a single Nehalem-EX processor could replace 20 machines bought several years ago and pay back the investment “in less than a year”.

Ken Robson, an algorithmic-trading technologist at investment bank Nomura, said the space savings offered by the opportunity to consolidate servers would save the business money as it uses co-location facilities on “some of the most expensive real estate you can get”.

Robson added: “We’ve worked with Nehalem-EX used it to collapse quite architectures. We’ve achieved a payoff from latency reduction as we have taken systems that are separated by a network switch and got them into the same box. We are now talking communication latencies on the order of tens of nanoseconds versus the low microseconds.

“We are quite excited about this because we get something of a free lunch. To achieve a 50µs latency reduction using software changes is a six-month, four-man type project. But with this, it’s possible to get a technology uplift that is substantially less costly than that,” said Robson.

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