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Xeon E5 (Romley-EP) Launch: Interview with Intel APAC team

Finally, the wait seems to have been worthwhile – Intel is today launching its new generation Socket 2011 dual CPU Xeon E5-2600 platform based on the Sandy Bridge architecture. Here we talk to Intel's regional honchos about some of the opportunities and challenges Intel faces.

Xeon E5 is one of the most complex microprocessors Intel, or anyone else, has ever designed – 8 cores with 20 MB L3 cache, four DDR3-1600 memory channels, 40 PCIe v3 plus 4 v2 lanes, and of course two high-speed QPI links, and all that in a pair, covering a wide range of frequency and power targets from ULV thin blade servers to high-powered superworkstations and HPC nodes. So, unlike the even larger-die Xeon E7 parts, which are specifically focused at 4-socket and above servers, the E5 series design had to cover a much greater product deployment span.

The number of new features, like AVX – which you already saw in desktop Sandy Bridge, but now with enough memory bandwidth to back it up – then integrated PCIe v3 with a third lower overall I/O latency, augmented with Direct I/O to receive I/O data directly into the cache instead of memory loops, is staggering. And, despite around 10% lower average per-core frequency compared to the same TDP Westmere predecessors, the new features and more balanced overall design at the system level give the new platform gives between 30% and 80% performance boost, depending on the application. 

Here we chat, in sunny Hong Kong, with the regional men in charge of the new platform:

VR-Zone interview with David McCloskey, Director of Product Marketing and Business Operations, Intel Asia Pacific & Jason Fedder, General Manager of Data Centre and Connected Systems Group, Intel Asia Pacific & PRC

Q1: Can you enlighten the users & ecosystem that the rolling out of the Intel® Xeon® processor E5 platform is smooth, and is Intel confident that the ecosystem is in full support?

A1: We announced at IDF last September that we had hit our production commitment for Intel® Xeon® E5 processors of being in production in the second half of 2011, and were able to provide production units to cloud and supercomputing customers under an early ship program. Hence we have met all of our commitments to the market.
The support by the ecosystem is apparent in a sense that we are tracking 400 design wins around the world that will come to market across a broad range of applications.  From traditional data center servers, to powerful workstations, to storage solutions, to Telco solutions we expect leading IT system providers from across the globe to select Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600/1600 product family as the heart of their next generation solutions. We already have shipped hundreds of thousands of production units since Q3’11 and expect that many vendors will be making announcements starting today about the availability of platforms based on the Xeon processor E5-2600/1600 product families.
Q2, What are the usages for Intel® Xeon® processor E5 family in other new markets such as storage controllers, switches, HPC and high end gaming systems?
A2: Within the 400 design wins for Intel® Xeon® processor E5 family, over 100 are in the communications infrastructure market segments.  These communications designs include wireless / cellular systems, network security appliances, network media processing appliances, and routers.  Intel provides unique features specifically targeting communications systems including higher reliability, 7 year manufacturing life, and higher temperature ratings. These vendors include Cisco, Dell, EMC, Hitachi, HP, Huawei, IBM, Oracle, Quanta, etc.
For HPC, features such as Intel® Integrated I/O (can up to triple the movement of data into and out of the processor so data can be made available faster than ever) with PCI Express 3.0, Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX) are ideal for demanding I/O usages from HPC applications. For instance, Intel® AVX increases floating point operations per clock up to 2X2 for technical, financial, scientific & content creation applications. These instructions double the size of the register used to process the instruction up to 256 bits allowing the CPU to do more work every clock cycle. Customers who have already taken advantage of these new Xeon E5 features include Infowrap, face.com, Kakadu Software, NHN and KISTI.
For high-end gaming – Intel® Core™ i7 Extreme Processor is best positioned to address the high-end gaming market.
Q3: Can you provide some comparisons on Intel® Xeon® processor E5 family versus AMD Opteron 6200 (Interlagos)?
A3: Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 product family offers significant performance leadership in addition to superior I/O capabilities that improve the flexibility and responsiveness of IT infrastructure via faster, higher capacity I/O interconnects. Some of our OEM systems from Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, IBM and Oracle also established impressive benchmarks with more than 15 new dual socket x86 world records.
These new server processors deliver up to 80 percent improved performance compared to the prior generation. New Intel® Integrated I/O with PCI Express 3.0 can up to triple the movement of data into and out of the processor so information can be made available faster than ever to support data-hungry applications. It also provides best data center performance per watt with over 50 percent gain on SPECpower_ssj2008 plus extends platform power control with Intel® Node Manager and Intel® Data Center Manager.
These capabilities in addition to continued superior energy efficiency with Intel Xeon products leads us to believe that a Xeon processor E5-2600 product family based platform will offer the best total cost of ownership compared to an Opteron based platform.
Q4, What is your opinion on the growth of cloud in APAC and PRC? What Intel is doing in these markets to drive cloud adoption? Can you name some design wins/customer testimonials?
A4: Global data centre IP traffic is forecasted to grow 33% annually through 2015, which is forecasted to more than triple the number of Cloud servers by 2015. In APAC & PRC, the growth is also phenomenal.
Intel is taking a leading role to accelerate open standards for cloud to help achieve the 2015 vision and is enabling the broadest ecosystem of open solutions from leading systems and solutions providers to make it easier to deploy clouds.
No one company can bring this vision to life alone. Intel is proud to be actively engaged in multiple organizations and standards groups to accelerate the development of cloud standards that lead to more open, interoperable solutions.  Intel serves as the technical advisor to the Open Data Center Alliance, a group of >300 global IT who define IT requirements for cloud.  Intel is also a founding member of the Open Compute Project, governing member of the Open Virtualization Alliance, and significant contributor to OpenStack.  We believe that accelerating standards development for interoperability, security, and manageability of clouds will lead to greater benefits to IT more quickly.
We are translating the engagements we have with organizations like the Open Data Center Alliance into solutions that address IT pain points. The Intel® Cloud Builders program brings together over 50 leading technology partners who provide IT with reference architectures, or recipes, to make it easier to deploy and optimize cloud infrastructure. Customers already benefited from Intel’s cloud solution include Korea Telecom, TCC technology, a commercial managed hosting and data centre service provider in Thailand and CloudEx Inc in PRC. 

Nebojsa Novakovic
In the spare time over the past two decades, editor and writer of high-end computer hardware and design features and analysis for European and US media and analyst houses. Reviews of high end hardware are my specialty for 28 years already.

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