Intel Unveils Nehalem-EX 8-Core Xeon 7500 Muscle Chip

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News Posted: Tue, Mar 30 2010 4:49 PM
Intel launched its much-anticipated Nehalem-EX processor today; the new chip could redefine performance at 4P and above. Nehalem-EX, aka Beckton, aka Xeon 6500/7500 is Nehalem at full throttle; Beckton is an eight-core/16-thread processor with up to 24MB of L3 cache or ~3MB per core compared to Nehalem's 2MB/core design. It supports up to four QPI links for glueless design implementations and features a quad-channel memory controller capable of controlling up to 16 DIMMs per socket. Intel has released a number of SKUs with different core counts, one without Hyper-Threading, varying amounts of L3 cache, and clockspeeds ranging from 1.73GHz-2.26GHz for the Hyper-Threaded CPUs and 2.66GHz one model of the new Xeon family that doesn't support it. 

Beckton, like Magny-Cours, is an evolutionary step forward; it's the CPU's interconnect architecture that makes it revolutionary. Prior to Beckton, if you wanted a four-core Xeon motherboard, you used a chipset with a configuration that looked like this:

This is Intel's highest-end Xeon 7300 chipset with four independent front-side busses connected to a memory controller with a massive 64MB snoop filter to eliminate unnecessary cache traffic. Even so, the system is enormously inefficient. With up to six cores per socket fighting for a single FSB and no way to quickly cross communicate, Intel's ability to scale its FSB designs couldn't keep up with core counts. This, incidentally, is part of why AMD did fairly well in 4P performance comparisons even before Shanghai; the Direct Connect architecture allowed Opteron to scale more efficiently than the old Core 2 Quad-based Xeons.

Beckton changes everything.

Intel's new core now uses an AMD-style point-to-point interconnect in the 4P space and above; a move that could cut access latencies by an order of magnitude in some cases. At 16 DIMMs per socket, the CPU is built for massive big iron deployments; Intel specifically noted it'll be deploying Beckton in 256-socket configurations and above. While Beckton should theoretically plug into any motherboard that supports Core  i7 Xeons, Intel is clearly targeting enterprise servers, HPC clusters, and large-scale virtualization efforts.

Yesterday we talked about AMD's new Opteron strategy and how the company has positioned its 8-12 core processors to challenge Intel in the 2P-8P market. Everything we said there still holds; Intel's new eight-core Xeon 7500/6500 processors offer incredible performance and even better scaling than AMD's Magny-Cours, but they're positioned for extremely high-end markets and socket configurations. The two companies will cross swords from time to time, but the price premium and raw performance of the Xeon 7500 series will create a buffer zone between the two architectures. We don't have 1K unit pricing yet, but you can bet these babies won't come cheap.

Beckton, as compared to dual-core Netburst, 65nm Core 2 Quad, and 45nm/Six-Core Dunnington.
Beckton's topology allows the CPUs to work at their full bandwidth

The Xeon 7500 could quickly become Intel's new gravy train; Gartner estimates that IT companies delayed upgrading one million servers due to the economic downturn. Given the tremendous performance improvements Beckton can deliver, we expect a fairly quick adoption rate in appropriate markets—if your an IT Director managing 4P systems or above, performance numbers like the ones above should make you rather happy.

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Inspector replied on Tue, Mar 30 2010 6:02 PM

Like Der said WOW, Competition is really bringing out the power of the future! Lets see which one is going to win in the end :P. Im like Intel a bit tad more then AMD :D so i vote for this if i had to choose... :P

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3vi1 replied on Tue, Mar 30 2010 6:41 PM


Lets see which one is going to win in the end

If you like innovation, hope that neither ever does.  :)

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Inspector replied on Tue, Mar 30 2010 7:05 PM

HEHE true :D, Let the competition rule the world one day :D

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M-ManLA replied on Tue, Mar 30 2010 11:11 PM

Intel have bank to win wars. Even gave their enemy some doe (well, forced to but they had the pockets for it).

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la_guy_10 replied on Wed, Mar 31 2010 12:09 AM

As things move more and more to the cloud this raw power will come in handy. I agree on a clock for clock basis Intel has the edge on raw performance. So I am in totally agreement with you that these new processors should see a very quick adoption rate. As graphics play a minor role if any in a rack server or blade server, also these should be energy efficient which is always welcome by IT personal. It seems AMD and Intel 1 up each other every week lately. Also it looks like Intel has the architecture fixed to maximise throughput so there should be no more bottleneck caused by a saturated FSB.

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larac replied on Wed, Mar 31 2010 6:33 AM

I like the looks of these from a VM point of view. The current batch of Xeon 5500 chips beat my VM enviroments E7450's all ends up.

Would love to get in a couple of 4 socket boxes with these in to test.

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realneil replied on Wed, Mar 31 2010 9:56 AM

I just can't get past the price premium that these will come with.

AMD just released new eight and twelve core server chips this week as well. They have impressive specs. The main difference is that the best one of them will cost only a little over $1300.00 apiece.

Intel's Quad Cores cost much more than that. So while the newest, best CPU from Intel for the server market may be faster than the newest, best one from AMD, they're getting their butts waxed in the price/value arena.

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moethelawn replied on Wed, Mar 31 2010 10:18 AM

How many cores can you go!  How many cores can you go! *dances*

It's pretty cool that we're able to do this.  Now we just need software to take advantage of it :P

In 5 years, how many cores in a processor do you think we'll be able to buy?

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RyuGTX replied on Wed, Mar 31 2010 7:39 PM

Just in time to steal the spotlight back from AMD's announcement of their 8/12 core Opterons.

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I agree Realneil!

AMD is hopefully going to dominate. If they can get their 6/8 cores to operate as multiple CPU's in an affordable solution. They will definitely get the jump on Intel, no matter how flashy Intel's new commercials are.

These Xeon's have great performance when it comes to servers and workstations, but they still cost you both legs an arm and the sack:(

I have seen the two unit Xeon setup in action on a workstation, and it rocks. It takes a normal render of half a day and cuts it down to an hour or so. But unless you are a studio, it is not very efficient to set one up.

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sp12 replied on Thu, Apr 1 2010 4:13 PM

I agree, they're powerful, but AMD just represents too good of a value. I feel much the same way about the desktop sector (if only AMD had amazing MB partners).

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godlike cpu

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