The gang over at CPU World reported that Intel has been quietly shipping Xeon “Westmere” processors clocked at a scorching 4.4 GHz. There is no confirmation from Intel that this is actually true, but article contents that this particular part, the Xeon X5698, is a dual-core chip and has been shipping to selected OEMs.
If true if would be the fastest Intel CPU ever offered. The chipmaker’s official top bin server part listed on their website, the quad-core Xeon X5687, clocks in at 3.6 GHz. Apparently, ditching two additional cores allowed the Intel engineers to crank the clock an extra 0.8 GHz.
So why isn’t Intel talking about the super-fast chips in public? One guess is that these chips are going into yet-to-be announced specialty servers. In fact, the CPU World article says this particular part will probably only be available through OEM systems.
The most likely target for the X5698 is high frequency trading (HFT) servers, where single-threaded speed is driving application demands. We reported on such a system last October. In this case Appro was using overclocked Xeon X5680 CPUs to achieve the 4.4 GHz speed. Back then we guessed that Intel might decide to serve the lucrative HFT market more directly:
It’s not too big a stretch to imagine that the chipmaker would want some of the action by offering faster clocks in its mainline Xeons. Whether this would take the form of faster CPUs with fewer cores (maybe just one?), or some exotic technology that allows the frequencies to breeze past 3.5 GHz is unknown. Almost certainly, the presence of 4-plus GHz Xeons would entice Tier 1 OEMs and others to build purpose-built HFT boxes.
Unless this is all just a geek fantasy, I expect to see some of these turbo-charged servers from a number of big OEMs in the coming months. Appro says they are already offering gear with the new Xeon part.