Intel Xeon D SoC To Wrestle ARM In Microserver And Cloud Services Markets

Intel's aiming to bring big core performance and intelligence in a microserver form factor with its new Xeon D family of processors, the company's first ever Xeon-based System-on-Chip (SoC). That sound you hear may be ARM's pulse skipping a beat, as Intel jams a mighty intimidating wrench into the rival chip maker's plans to dominate the microserver market.

The Xeon D line is built on Intel's 14nm process technology and combines the performance and intelligence of its regular Xeon chips with the size and power savings of an SoC. According to Intel, Xeon D delivers up to 3.4x faster performance node and up to 1.7x better performance per watt compared to the company's Atom C2750, which is part of Intel's second-generation 64-bit SoC family. Xeon D is the third generation and it's actually based on Intel's 14nm Broadwell architecture.

Intel Xeon D Die 

Intel's making an aggressive play for customers in need of low-power, high density infrastructure solutions. One of the company's pitches is that it's delivering server class reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS) features in an ultra-dense, low-power device. And as far as potential market goes, there more than 50 systems currently in design, two-thirds of which are network, storage, and IoT (Internet of Things) designs.

Intel Xeon D Slide 2

Players like Cisco, HP, NEC, Quanta Cloud Technology, Sugon, and Supermicro have all committed to building microserves based on Intel's new Xeon D options. This is where ARM should be concened, as it shows Intel isn't wasting any time carving out a significant footprint for its Xeon D line, one that will see the SoCs powering devices like network-attached storage (NAS) boxes, routers, embedded IoT devices, and more.

"The growth of connected devices and demand for more digital services has created new opportunities for information and communication technology," said Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of the Data Center Group at Intel. "By bringing Intel Xeon processor performance to a low-power SoC, we're delivering the best of both worlds and enabling our customers to deliver exciting new services."

Intel Xeon D Slide 3

Intel's also taking aim at cloud service providers. The company considers Xeon D to be an ideal fit for cloud outfits using hyperscale data centers who want to migrate over to microservers to process lightweight workloads. That includes things like dynamic web serving, memory caching, web hosting, and warm storage.

"They can now pack more compute density into their data centers. Better still, with support for up to 128GB of memory, the SoC allows [cloud] service providers to meet the needs of more users per server," Nidhi Chappell, Product Line Manger for the Intel Xeon Processor D family, said in a blog post.

Intel Xeon D Slide 4

Xeon D Family

Intel's kicking things off with two Xeon D processors, the D-1540 (8 cores, 16 threads, 2GHz, 45W TDP) and D-1520 (4 cores, 8 threads, 2.2GHz, 45W TDP). As Chappell alluded to, these chips have memory controllers capable of up to 128GB of addressable memory. They also feature an integrated platform controller hub (PCH), integrated I/Os, and two integrated 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Again, all of this is based on Intel's Broadwell core CPU architecture, so performance per watt should be strong. In fact, this is the first 8-core incarnation of Broadwell to hit the market, which is a significant milestone in and of itself.

Support for error correcting code (ECC) memory and platform level error management and resilience also come with the territory, as does built-in hardware virtualization, encryption and decryption, and Intel's Platform Storage Extensions to accelerate data movement and protect data in the process.

Intel Xeon D Slide

Intel's Xeon D-1520 and D-1540 are available immediately for $199 and $581, respectively. A more comprehensive lineup including microserver, network, storage, and IoT optimized SoCs will be available in the second half of this year.