Intel Unveils Nehalem-EX Octal-Core Server CPU

Intel just held a press conference in which the company spoke about its next-generation server processor, currently code-named Nehalem-EX. As its name suggests, the Nehalem-EX is based on the Nehalem microarchitecture which debuted with the Xeon 5500 and Core i7 series processors. The Nehalem-EX series however, will be decidedly more high-end in terms of specifications and performance. Whereas current Xeon 5500 series processors feature four execution cores per CPU with support for up to eight threads through the use of Hyper-Threading, the Nehalem-EX series will be outfitted with up to eight execution cores per chip with support for up to sixteen threads, and 24MB of cache. In addition, Nehalem-EX will also sport some features carried over from the Itanium line, like Machine Check Architecture (MCA) Recovery.

Intel Nehalem-EX Microarchitecture - Image courtesy:  Intel Corp.

According to Intel, the Nehalem-EX will offer up to nine times the memory bandwidth of the previous-generation Intel Xeon 7400 platform with up to double the memory capacity through the use of 16 memory slots per processor socket. The processors will also offer four high-bandwidth QuickPath Interconnect links per CPU to provide significant scalability, from large-memory two-socket systems through eight-socket systems capable of processing 128 threads simultaneously.  Scalability beyond eight sockets, up to 32-socket implementations can be achieved.

Intel has a demo of the Nehalem-EX in action processing 128 threads right here.

In the video, Intel's Kennedy Brown and IBM's Kevin Powell show off an 8 socket, 64 core, 128 thread IBM server based on Intel's Nehalem-EX processor churning though a workload that pegs all cores at 100% utilization.

8-Socket Nehalem-EX Platform Architecture - 64 Cores, 128-Threads, Scalable to 32-Socket

Nehalem-EX Architecture Enhancements Vs. Previous Gen.

A summary of the Nehalem-EX features and benefits includes:

  • Intel Nehalem Architecture built on Intel’s unique 45nm high-k metal gate technology process
  • Up to 8 cores per processor
  • Up to 16 threads per processor with Intel Hyper-threading
  • Scalability up to eight sockets via Quick Path Interconnects and greater with third-party node controllers
  • QuickPath Architecture with four high-bandwidth links
  • 24MB of shared cache
  • Integrated memory controllers
  • Intel Turbo Boost Technology
  • Intel scalable memory buffer and scalable memory interconnects
  • Up to 9x the memory bandwidth of previous generation
  • Support for up to 16 memory slots per processor socket
  • Advanced RAS capabilities including MCA Recovery
  • 2.3 billion transistors

The Intel Nehalem-EX is scheduled for production in the second half of 2009, with systems coming from Intel's usual partners in the high-end server space. Intel has not commented on clock frequencies just yet, but if they can come close to existing products, the Nehalem-EX platform could have a major impact on the HPC space, as well as the high-end server market.