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Intel Accelerates Servers with Xeon E5 Chip Launch

By Sean Kerner (Send Email)
Posted March 6, 2012


Your servers and data centers are about to get a whole lot faster, if Intel has its way. Intel Tuesday officially launched the Xeon E5 CPU platform, which delivers an 80-percent performance gain over the previous generation of Intel's server chips.

"The E5 is the heart of the data center," Diane Bryant vice president and general manager of Intel's Connected Systems Group said during a press event for the launch of the E5. "Over the past decade, we have seen an over 100x improvement in raw performance."

While raw performance of the processor is important, Bryant stressed that the E5 also delivers other innovations beyond just raw compute power. One of those innovations is a new instruction set called Advanced Vector Extensions, which can double the amount of floating point operations that a server chip performs.

"The floating point gains target computation intense, workloads whether they are technical computing, medical imaging or media processing," Bryant said.

I/O

Intel is also improving I/O with a new system called Intel Data Direct I/O. Intel Director Nazeem Noordem explained that with the E5, the I/O hub has been directly integrated with the processor.

"With this integration, we have reduced the latency of data traffic by 30 percent, so data gets where it needs to go faster than ever before," Noordem said.

Additionally, the E5 supports PCI Express 3.0, which provides double the I/O bandwidth available per port over PCI Express 2.0. Data Direct I/O also enables faster networking, as it lets the Ethernet controller communicate directly to the processor cache.

"With Data Direct I/O we have re-architected the system such that the process is the primary location for network traffic," Noordem said. "This means that the latency between the processor and the network adapter is very short."

Security

With the E5 platform, Intel is baking in new Trusted Security capabilities, including the ability to do full data encryption and decryption. Bryant noted that previous to the E5, data encryption wasn't always possible for all workloads, as servers took a performance hit.

"With E5 you can encrypt using the ANS instructions and can encrypt and decrypt with no performance impact," Bryant said. "Data can be encrypted both at rest and in transit."

Energy Efficiency

The Xeon E5 also takes aim at making servers and the data centers they're in, more efficient. According to Bryant, power consumption has been reduced by as much as 50 percent.

Enhanced power monitoring capabilities on the E5 track CPU utilization. As such, if a CPU is not being fully utilized, the processor can throttle back when not needed, which reduces overall power usage. Going a step further, the Intel Node Manager technology enables data center administrators to dynamically see what utilization is to help optimize and balance performance and power requirements.

The Intel E5 is already being including in new server platforms from IBM, Dell and HP. While servers are a key market for the E5, Bryant stressed that the new platform is a chip architecture for the entire data center.

"It is not just an outstanding server solution," Bryant said. "It is an outstanding storage solution and an outstanding network solution."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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