sandy bridge ep 1 Intel might yet get Sandy Bridge E out this year

A couple of weeks ago we reported that Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge-E processor and Waimea Bay platform had been delayed until January 2012. New information has reached us that suggest that Intel is trying very hard to get the new platform out this year, although this means that the company will axe a lot of platform features.

A couple of weeks ago we reported that Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge-E processor and Waimea Bay platform had been delayed until January 2012. New information has reached us that suggest that Intel is trying very hard to get the new platform out this year, although this means that the company will axe a lot of platform features.

Judging by the information we've seen, Intel is having several issues with the new platform, ranging from storage, to PCI Express and apparently even CPU revisions. It's pretty much bad news all around. But let's take a step back and look at things with a view from Intel's Xeon roadmap. The picture below is from a partner presentation and although it's been seen before, we're going to leave that partner un-named as we don't want to get them in any trouble. As you can see, it details four different chipset SKUs for Patsburg,- A, -B, -D and -T. The X79 chipset is known as Patsburg-X and was meant to be similar in terms of features to the Patsburg-D SKU.

As you can see, there are a few feature differences between the various SKUs with Patsburg-A only featuring four additional SATA 6Gbps ports via the SCU and Patsburg-B gains SAS 6Gbps support. However, where things get interesting is Patsburg-D, the performance option, as this gains not only an additional four SATA/SAS 6Gbps via the SCU, but also a PCI Express 3.0 uplink to the CPU. Patsburg-T just gains an extra RAID level, but is otherwise identical to Patsburg-D.

So why are we mentioning all of this? Well, because as we mentioned, Patsburg-X or X79 if you like, was meant to come with the same features as Patsburg-D, more or less, albeit with some additional consumer tweaks. However, due to whatever issues Intel is having, the company has now decided to downgrade the feature set and we're now looking at a chipset that is similar to Patsburg-B instead. This means no PCI Express 3.0 storage uplink to the CPU and the loss of four SATA/SAS 6Gbps ports. Even for the most performance demanding users this isn't likely to be a huge issue though, but it's still disappointing, especially after having seen so many boards on display at Computex with 14 SATA ports on them.

patsburg Intel might yet get Sandy Bridge E out this year

On a more positive note, Intel is apparently looking into some kind of solution that will add the storage uplink and the missing SATA/SAS 6Gbps ports after launch, but it's not likely that this is a feature that can be added via a software/BIOS patch simply because the PCI Express 3.0 interface wouldn't be present on the motherboard. Presumably it'd mean a second revision of the X79 chipset, but this is purely speculation on our side.

Sandy Bridge-E was also meant to be Intel's first native PCI Express 3.0 enabled CPU, but alas once again Intel has run into a snag. Due to lack of hardware to test PCI Express 3.0 compliance with, Intel has decided not to include PCI Express 3.0 at launch and once again we're looking at some kind of solution to add this after the platform has launched. Once again this is an issue that is unlikely to have any impact whatsoever; simply because there are no PCI Express 3.0 add-on cards available. That said, the LGA-2011 platform is meant to last until at least the second half of 2013, so this is a feature that will future proof it.

On top of all the chipset issues, Intel also seems to have run into a snag with the CPUs, as the C-0 stepping is meant to start shipping to its partners for qualification testing within the next two to four weeks. Intel is apparently waiting for revision C-1 until it feels confident with Sandy Bridge-E. The good news is that despite all of this, Intel's board design guidelines have proven to be reliable enough so that Intel's board partners won't have to do any board re-designs despite all of the changes that have taken place. Well, that is of course not taking into account things like empty space for missing SATA/SAS ports.

We're not out of the woods yet, but we might actually get to see a Sandy Bridge-E launch this time of Christmas, although it really depends on how quickly Intel can solve all of the issues. Then again, it might be better to hold off and wait and see what Intel will do with regards to the missing feature than take the plunge early on and miss out on the full platform.