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3/30/2009
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Intel's Nehalem Server Chips Seen Aiding Virtualization

The improvements in Xeon processors are the kind of technology organizations will need as they deploy more virtualization in their data centers and move toward cloud computing, Intel said.

Along with the IMC, Intel has incorporated its hyperthreading technology, which enables a processor to perform multiple tasks simultaneously, and has also included what the company calls "turbo mode," which is firmware that tailors multicore processors to the workload. The technology can ramp up individual cores when needed while shutting down others to reduce power consumption.

Beyond the processor, Intel introduced the Nehalem EP platform, which includes the chipset that contains the new 82599 10 Gigabit Ethernet Controller. The new technology is geared specifically at virtualization environments by greatly improving network input/output performance, according to Intel.

The processors introduced Monday include 14 Xeon 5500 series chips, which are for two-socket servers; and three Xeon 3500 series CPUs for single-socket servers and workstations. Prices in quantities of 1,000 range from $188 to $1,600 each for the 5500 series, and $284 to $999 for the 3500 series.

For higher-end servers, Intel plans to introduce a six-core Nehalem processor and an eight-core design, called Nehalem EX, by the end of the year.

Intel claims a Xeon 5500-based server provides nine times the performance of a single-socket server running the previous-generation Xeon processor. The power boost means as many as 21 software servers can be consolidated from older systems into a single Nehalem EP-based server, reducing power consumption and space in a data center. In such a scenario, Intel claims Xeon 5500 computers can pay for themselves in eight months.

To make the Nehalem EP platform more enticing for potential customers, Intel plans to have its upcoming 32-nanometer processors based on the microarchitecture compatible with the same motherboard sockets. Code-named Westmere, the 32-nm chips are set to ship next year. The Nehalem EP processors released Monday are based on Intel's 45-nm manufacturing process. The Westmere chips are expected to bring higher performance and better energy efficiency.

About 70 computer manufacturers, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM, are releasing more than 230 products powered by the new Xeon processors, according to Intel. During the Nehalem EP launch, Intel brought out five customers either testing or about to deploy Nehalem EP servers. The customers included animation studio DreamWorks, health care insurance provider Humana, online auctioneer eBay, energy company BP, and outsourcer Savvis.


InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around virtualization management. Download the report here (registration required).

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