Intel's Core processor architecture has been the company's return ticket to its glory days ever since July 2006 when it debuted in mainstream and high performance desktops. Having received showers of praises from around the world, within just two months Intel delivered on its promise of extending Core processor architecture throughout their entire lineup from notebooks, to desktops and even workstation and servers. Penetration into the workstation and server space was accelerated thanks in due part of the Bensley platform that was seeded earlier and was designed for drop-in support of the Xeon 5100 class Core-architecture processors which superseded the ageing Xeon 5000 class NetBurst-architecture processors. This gave Intel a much needed boost to its processor product portfolio to give AMD's second-generation Opteron 2200 series a run for its money. By early 2007, Intel had one-upped AMD with the Xeon 5300 series quad-core processors. At that junction, rival AMD only had dual-core processors and required a 4-way SMP system to keep up with the horsepower of two Xeon 5300 class processors, which of course eats up more power and dissipates more heat.
While Intel made the right move to quickly bring about the Core processor architecture to the 1-way and 2-way SMP server markets, their Xeon MP 7100 processor lineup and platform catering to 4-way or higher needs have been continuously losing market share to AMD's Opteron processors. After all, there's only that much the NetBurst-architecture processors can deliver. Finally after many months of rigorous testing for their next generation Xeon MP platform, Intel launched their Caneland platform on the 5th September 2007 which encompasses their new quad-core Xeon MP processors as well as a new chipset to enable powerful 4-processor computing with a total of 16 processing cores. While AMD just launched their native quad-core Barcelona processors yesterday to level the playing field somewhat, we'll focus today on Intel's much awaiting refresh to push into the high density and high performance computing space.
"Caneland" is the codename for Intel's high-end dual-core and quad-core multi-processor server platform that comprises of "Tigerton" processors and the "Clarksboro" chipset. Clarksboro is Intel's new 7300 server chipset with data traffic optimization that will drive up to four of the new Xeon MP quad-core processors (Tigertons) based off the Core microarchitecture and will be go by the Xeon 7300 series processor naming scheme. With Xeon MP platform finally adopting the Core processor technology, the NetBurst architecture has been finally purged out of Intel's lineup for good. Essentially, the Xeon 7300 processors are quite similar to the Xeon 5300 processors as both are quad-core processors using dual 65nm dies on one package. Intel continues to offer the dual-die package as it allows them fast time-to-market (as we've seen them execute in the past) and drives down cost substantially. If you compare the various processors using the Core microarchitecture, they are all very similar in design/specs from the server level down to the notebook segment; with the exception of category specific tweaks to suit their respective markets of course. Thus the single dual-core die has been their basic building block for much of what they are offering in their CPU business, which is excellent cost optimization. As expected the new Xeon MP processors have features such as Intel Virtualization technology, Execute Disable Bit (Intel XD technology) and support true 64-bit computing (via Intel EM64T). Here's how they stack up in configuration:-
|Processor Model / Processor Characteristics||Clock Speed||No. of Cores||L2 Cache||Front Side Bus (MHz)||Max TDP (W)||Demand-Based Switching (DBS)||Estimated Price (US$)|
Note that Xeon 7300 series come in different variants. The performance optimized SKU is tagged with an 'X' (similar to the Extreme Editions on the desktop) and this is seen here as the Intel Xeon X7350 quad-core processor. Of course being performance optimized, it sacrifices on the thermal envelops with a 130W rated TDP. Still it is many folds faster than its NetBurst predecessors (Xeon 7100 / 7000) without increasing the TDP standard. For the 'mainstream' multiprocessor system design, Intel offers a variety of quad-core 80W TDP parts with varying and interesting L2 cache sizes and clock speeds. There's even a 50W SKU that's power optimized to suit ultra dense servers and blades. If you give it some thought, that amounts to just 12.5 watts per processing core!
All of these processors are shipping to partners right now with big vendors like HP who've informed us that their machines will be made available to customers before month end. Besides quad-cores, two high speed 80W TDP dual-core processors (Xeon 7200 series) are also available to address very specific segments of the server market that require high clock speeds than increased processor cores. Two key segments will benefit from this offering: high performance computing (HPC) applications like weather modeling and life sciences that require heavy FP crunching, while the other is tied down to software licensing issues (such as operating systems) that won't benefit or won't run more than a specified licensed usable number of processors/cores.