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Intel Xeon: Big, Better, Faster, Safer

Replacing 15 old Xeon racks with one rack of new 5600 servers could cut a data center’s annual energy cost by 95%

Intel Session at Virtualization Conference & Expo

Intel hopes to tempt the market's weak appetite for servers, which only started to perk up last quarter after a long fast, with its new Xeon 5600 processor, a k a Woodmere, its first 32nm chip, officially sent to market Tuesday.

God willing it might even set off the great long-awaited, long-suppressed refresh cycle everybody's been waiting for.

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Gartner estimates that approximately a million servers would have been replaced a year ago but weren't. Intel reckons 80% of the installed base of servers is up for refresh.

However, if the market doesn't go for a whole new server it can still pull out last year's Xeons and stick in the new chip.

The new dingus - which supports up to six cores, the first six-core chip from Intel since the Dunnington two years ago - promises 60% better performance than its year-old 45nm predecessor, the Xeon 5500.

Data centers are supposed to be able to replace 15 five-year-old single-core servers with one of these things, achieving ROI in just five months.

Intel says replacing 15 old Xeon racks with one rack of new 5600 servers could cut a data center's annual energy cost by 95%. Replacing 15 old racks with 15 new ones would translate into a 15x performance increase and roughly an 8% cut in energy.

Trying the hard sell, Intel says the monthly cost of not refreshing 50 single-core servers with three 5600 servers is ~$10,000 a month in software support, utility costs and warranty costs.

Intel's 32nm process, which uses second-generation high-k metal gate transistors, is responsible for the increase in speed and the decrease in energy consumption.

The widget has also been invested with Intel Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (AES-NI) and Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT), two security features that enable faster encryption and decryption performance for more secure transactions and virtualized environments, which Intel figures should give data centers a stronger foundation for cloud security.

It says the TXT stuff will give cloud environments a more secure platform launch environment, along with more protection for applications that move between virtualized servers.

Hardware-based capabilities integrated into the processor act as a shield against malicious software prior to VM launch so important applications and data can run more securely in a virtualized environment.

Between them, Intel says, TXT and AES can ensure that virtualized environments experience better performance and functionality, and are more secure when they are launched, migrated or at rest.

Getting down to some speeds and feeds, Intel says the frequency-optimized quad-core version of the 5600 peaks at 3.46GHz with a TDP of 130 watts, while the six-core version hits 3.33GHz with a TDP of 130 watts. (Figure a 12MB cache.)

Advanced six-core versions will top out at 2.93GHz and a TDP of 95 watts, and the standard quad-core will reach 2.66GHz at 80 watts.

Low-voltage versions of the chip will have TDPs of 60 watts and 40 watts with six and four cores, respectively.

There is also a Xeon L3406 series aimed at the uniprocessor micro server segment that has a TDP of 30 watts, suitable for high-density form factors and power-sensitive environments.

Intel has its heart set on cracking the embedded market so it's got three new embedded chips, including the first six-core embedded processors, the Xeon E5645 and L5638, a quad-core L5618 and an E5620. These processors, with seven-year lifecycle support, are built for thermally constrained and robust communications environments.

Lest the workstation people feel neglected Intel announced the expected Core i7-980X Extreme Edition, its first 32nm, six-core processor with 12 computing threads for client applications. The 3.33GHz part is supposed be good at digital content creation, 3D rendering, multitasking and hardcore gaming and has 12MB of Smart Cache, 50% more than Intel's current high-end desktop chip.

The Xeon 5600 ranges in price from $387 to $1,663 in quantities of 1,000. The E5645, L5638 and L5618 embedded processors are priced at $958, $958 and $530, respectively, in quantity. The Intel Core i7-980X goes for $999 in quantity.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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