Chipmaker looks to go head-to-head with IBM and Oracle-Sun in market for enterprise-class processors.
Intel has launched four new eight-core server processors that it hopes will pack enough punch to coax corporations away from servers using the competing RISC design.
The chips are part of Intel's Xeon 7500 series introduced Tuesday, one day after rival Advance Micro Devices launched eight- and 12-core server processors as part of a new Opteron 6000 series. The latest Xeon series, codenamed Nehalem-EX, also includes six- and four-core chips.
Intel's eight-core processors have 16 threads, clock speeds of 1.86 GHz, 2 GHz or 2.26 GHz; caches of 18 MB or 24 MB, and thermal design power of 95 watts or 130 watts. The chips are built on Intel's 45-nanometer manufacturing process, and prices in quantities of 1,000 range from $2,461 to $3,692 each.
Looking at price alone, Intel's new products are significantly more expensive than AMD's. In quantities of 1,000 units, AMD's eight-core processors range from $266 to $744, while the 12-core chips range from $744 to $1,386. A full comparison will have to await independent benchmark tests.
In launching the new products, Intel is clearly going after the high-end server market dominated by RISC chips made by IBM, Sun Microsystems, now owned by Oracle, and others. The chipmaker envisions the processors offered in two- to eight-socket servers using Intel's Quick Path interconnect. Larger systems are expected from computer makers using third-party node controllers.
Such high-end systems are used in powering the largest data-demanding corporate applications, as well as in technical computing environments and in server consolidation. While the majority of servers shipping today have x86 processors, RISC systems sell for substantially more.
The performance boost from Intel's new products is significant, in comparison to its previous highest-end server line, the Xeon 7400 series. The new eight-core processors have, on average, three times the performance and double the memory capacity with up to 16 memory slots per processor socket, according to Intel.
Companies using virtualization to consolidate applications running on older servers in the data center would reap significant benefits from Intel's new products, according to Intel. A single four-socket server running Intel's eight-core chips could replace up to 20 single-core, four-chip servers while maintaining the same level of performance at up to a 92% reduction in energy costs. Intel predicts that such a scenario would lead to a return on investment within one year due to reductions in power, cooling and licensing costs.
"The Xeon 7500 brings mission critical capabilities to the mainstream by delivering the most significant leap in performance, scalability and reliability ever seen from Intel," Kirk Skaugen, VP of the Intel architecture group and general manager of the vendor's data center group, said in a statement.
Intel also offers its Itanium architecture for high-end systems, but Itanium has never garnered the popularity of the company's x86 platform, which is the foundation of Nehalem-EX. Itanium is mostly used in Hewlett-Packard systems, although other computer makers also have developed computers with the technology.
Intel's Xeon 7500 series also include four- and six-core processors with clock speeds ranging from 1.73 GHz to 2.66 GHz. Prices in quantities of 1,000 range from $744 to $1980 each. Intel has posted a price list for all the new products.
System makers expected to announce products based on the latest processors include Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, NEC, Oracle, SGI, Supermicro, Bull, Cisco, Cray and Quanta.
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.