Intel Sapphire Rapids Enterprise CPUs Confirmed With On-Package HBM Memory Support

Intel Xeon Processor
The end of the year is typically thin on interesting news in the technology sector, as companies opt to wait for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January to make any major announcements or product unveils. There are exceptions, however. Just before we ring in another year, Intel has posted an interesting document that essentially confirms its upcoming Xeon Scalable processors based on Sapphire Rapids will support on-package high bandwidth memory (HBM).

While previously rumored, this is a feature Intel has not explicit stated up to this point. During its Architecture Day 2020 event this past summer, Intel talked a little about Sapphire Rapids (among other things), noting it is based on an 10-nanometer enhanced SuperFin technology, which should yield better performance and power characteristics.

Intel also confirmed that Sapphire Rapids will support new technologies including DDR5 memory support, PCI Express 5.0, Compute Express Link (CLX) 1.1, and built-in AI acceleration using new Advanced Matrix Extensions. Sapphire Rapids will also serve as part of the foundations for Aurora, the first Intel-based exascale supercomputer.

Adding HBM to the mix could offer a significant increase in bandwidth. And it is apparently coming, according to a newly updated Intel Architecture document (PDF) titled "Set Extensions and Future Features Programming Reference." The reference to HBM falls under the Integrated Memory Controller Machine Check Errors section, towards the bottom. Have a look...

Intel Sapphire Rapids HBM

This section highlights a bunch of error codes related to the integrated memory controllers of Intel's upcoming Sapphire Rapids CPUs, and what the codes mean. As highlighted above, two of them—0220H and 0221H—point specifically to HBM memory, including an HBM command / address parity error, and an HBM data parity error.

Normally going through a series of memory error codes would be pretty boring, but in this case, the entries serve as confirmation that Sapphire Rapids will indeed adopt HBM memory into the mix (and yes, I realize that "HBM memory" is redundant, like "ATM machine"). This is in addition to 8-channel DDR5 memory support, which also figures to boost memory bandwidth over DDR4. Intel Optane Memory support is also headed to Sapphire Rapids.

It will be interesting to see what kind of performance dividends Sapphire Rapids brings to the high performance computing (HPC) sector, with on-package HBM support. We'll find out when these chips ship out in the second half of next year.