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Feature Articles

Intel's Caneland Spices up 4-way Server Market

By Vijay Anand - 12 Sep 2007

Caneland - Intel's MP Platform Savior

Caneland - Intel's MP Platform Savior

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that was seeded earlier and was designed for drop-in support of the Xeon 5100 class Core-architecture processors which superseded the ageing Xeon 5000 class NetBurst-architecture processors.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.

Adesh Gupta, Server Platform Architecture Manager for Intel, walked us through the Caneland server platform during Intel's Enterprise Day conference. In his hand he holds the Xeon 7300 quad-core processor for the rejuvenated Xeon MP platform.

"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:-

Quad-Core Intel Xeon Processor 7300 Series
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$)
Xeon X7350 2.93GHz 4 8MB 1066 130 Yes $2301
Xeon E7340 2.40GHz 4 8MB 1066 80 Yes $1980
Xeon E7330 2.40GHz 4 6MB 1066 80 Yes $1391
Xeon E7320 2.13GHz 4 4MB 1066 80 Yes $1177
Xeon E7310 1.60GHz 4 4MB 1066 80 No $856
Xeon L7345 1.86GHz 4 8MB 1066 50 No $2301
Xeon E7220 2.93GHz 2 8MB 1066 80 Yes $1177
Xeon E7210 2.40GHz 2 8MB 1066 80 Yes $856

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.

HP's ProLiant DL580 G5 is one of the many announced server boxes that is based on the new Intel Xeon MP 7300 server platform. Offered in many configurations, this 4U dense rack uses SFF SAS drives to reduce power consumption but yet can pack up to 2.33TB of storage. Besides a rack mounted server, HP also announced their ProLiant BL680c G5 four-processor server blade that would support the quad-core Xeon 7300 series processors.