Intel Rolls Out New Server CPUs

By Michael Feldman

May 14, 2012

Intel Corp. has launched three new families of Xeon processors, joining the Xeon E5-2600 series the chipmaker introduced in March. These latest chips span the entire market for the Xeon line, from four- and two-socket servers, down to entry-level workstations and microservers. A number of HPC server makers, including SGI, Dell, and Appro announced updated hardware based on the new silicon.

The newest Xeon of greatest interest to high performance computing is the Sandy Bridge E5-4600 series, which is built for four-socket servers. At the CPU level, the E5-4600 is more or less identical to the E5-2600 for two-socket systems, both of which are available in 4-, 6-, and 8-core flavors, support 4 memory channels, include 40 lanes of integrated PCIe 3.0, and come with up to 20 MB of last level cache. The four-socket E5-4600 can support twice as much memory per system (up to 1.5 TB) as its two-socket counterpart, but that just serves to keep the per processor and per core memory ratio in line.

In normal times, the new four-socket Xeon would simply take the place of the older technology, in this case the Xeon E7 (“Westmere-EX”), but Intel has moved the new chip into a somewhat different role. According to Michele Fisher, a senior product marketing engineer at Intel, the E5-4600 is intended to complement the E7, rather than replace it. Specifically, the Sandy Bridge version is a “cost and density optimized” CPU for four-socket servers, which in this case is reflected in less cores (maxing out at 8 instead of 10 on the Westmere-EX), a lower memory capacity (1.5 TB instead of 2.0 TB), and less RAS support. It’s also less expensive. The price range on the new four-socket Xeons is $551 to $3,616; on the older Westmere E7 chips, it’s $774 to $4,616.

The idea, says Fisher, is to target the new four-socket CPUs for dense, scale-out systems in domains like HPC and telco, and to support growing geographies like China, which are especially cost-conscious. And because of their density and better energy efficiency, the new CPUs are especially suitable for four-socket blade servers. The older E7 chips will continue to be sold into more traditional enterprise systems, in particular, high-end transactional database machines, where the larger memory footprint and high reliability features are most appreciated.

Since the E5-4600 supports the Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX), courtesy of the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, the new chip can do floating point operations at twice the clip of its pre-AVX predecessors. According to Intel, a four-socket server outfitted with E5-4650 CPUs can deliver 602 gigaflops on Linpack, which is nearly twice the flops that can be achieved with the top-of the-line E7 technology. That makes this chip a fairly obvious replacement for the E7 when the application domain is scientific computing.

Which explains why SGI is upgrading its Altix UV shared memory supercomputing platform from the E7 to the E5-4600. Also, since the UV has SGI’s custom NUMAlink interconnect and node controller, that system can scale well beyond the four sockets and 1.5 TB of cache coherent memory based on the native Intel chipset.

In fact, SGI’s new Sandy Bridge-based UV can scale up to 4,096 cores and 64 TB of memory in a single system. That’s twice the number of cores and four times the memory of the older Westmere-based UV. And because of the chip’s AVX support, peak flops per UV rack has doubled, from 5.4 to 11 teraflops.

SGI has already sold one of its new UVs to the COSMOS Consortium, a group that uses HPC to support origin-of-the-universe type research associated with Stephen Hawking’s cosmology work. Some of the simulations are designed to reveal the nature of the universe immediately after — as in one second after — the Big Bang. The computer will also support other cosmology research, including searching for planets outside our solar system.

Dell is also using the E5-4600, but in more conventional HPC gear. It’s putting the new Xeon into its four-socket PowerEdge M820 and R820, a blade and rackmount server, respectively. The M820 can house up to 10 full-height blades in 10U chassis, while the half-as-dense rackmount R820 puts a single four-socket server into a 2U box.

A couple steps down performance-wise from the E5-4600 is Intel’s new Sandy Bridge E5-2400, aimed at lower-end two socket servers. It’s designed to be a more energy-efficient alternative to the original two-socket E5-2600. It’s also considerably cheaper, with a price range of $188 to $1,440.

The E5-2400 series spans the same core counts as E5-2600, but gets by with one less memory channel (3), fewer PCIe lanes (24), and maxes out at half the memory (384 GB) of its older sibling. More importantly, they tend to be slower chips; the top-end E5-2440 is nearly full gigahertz slower (2.4 GHz) than the fastest E5-2600. But that translates into less power draw — from 60 watts on the low end part, up to 95 watts at the top end.

Their energy efficiency and cost make them suitable for scale-out clusters that don’t require a lot of single-threaded horsepower. Dell, for example, is using the E5-2400 processors in their new M420 blade, which is being positioned for some HPC-type workloads, especially animation and CGI rendering. The M420 is the first quarter-height dual-socket blade in the market; 32 of the mini-blades (1024 cores) can be squeezed into a 10U chassis. As with the four-socket gear, Dell is also offering a rackmount counterpart, the R420.

SGI is using the E5-2400 CPU as the base processor for its the Hadoop clusters, as well as in its Rackable server line for more general enterprise duty. For many Hadoop applications, which tend to be bound by data movement, rather than raw computational muscle, this chip could be a nice fit. And even though it’s slower than the mainline E5-2600 chips, SGI is still promising 22 percent better price-performance and 27 percent better performance/watt than the corresponding Westmere EP-based Hadoop gear.

The third new Xeon is the one-socket E3-1200 v2, a 22nm Ivy Bridge CPU for entry-level servers and workstations. Offered in dual-core and quad-core configurations, prices range from $189 to $884. The fastest part, at 3.7 GHz, offers quite respectable performance, but with only 8 MB of cache and a maximum memory capacity of 32 GB, the chip might be a bit of a stretch for HPC duty.

The family also includes two interesting new CPUs aimed at the microserver market, including Intel’s lowest powered Xeon, the E3-1220L v2. With a TDP of just 17 watts, that’s approaching ARM CPU territory. For example, Calexda makes a quad-core ARM chip for microservers that draws 5 watts, but that’s a 32-bit CPU, which limits its application in the server room rather substantially. The 64-bit E3 Xeon would have no such problem.

Intel is not positioning these new microserver Xeons for high performance computing; ostensibly they’re targeted for front-end web workloads, content delivery, and dedicated hosting. However, some creative server maker might be able to design a nifty little one-socket box with the E3-1220L v2 that could be used for some types of embarrassingly parallel codes. But since Intel would much rather sell its higher end E5 Xeons to its HPC customers, we’re not likely to see a Xeon-based microservers in supercomputers anytime soon.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Russian and American Scientists Achieve 50% Increase in Data Transmission Speed

September 20, 2018

As high-performance computing becomes increasingly data-intensive and the demand for shorter turnaround times grows, data transfer speed becomes an ever more important bottleneck. Now, in an article published in IEEE Tra Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM to Brand Rescale’s HPC-in-Cloud Platform

September 20, 2018

HPC (or big compute)-in-the-cloud platform provider Rescale has formalized the work it’s been doing in partnership with public cloud vendors by announcing its Powered by Rescale program – with IBM as its first named Read more…

By Doug Black

Democratization of HPC Part 1: Simulation Sheds Light on Building Dispute

September 20, 2018

This is the first of three articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of High Performance Computing especially in new user communities and application areas. Major reasons for this trend are the ongoing improvements i Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Clouds Over the Ocean – a Healthcare Perspective

Advances in precision medicine, genomics, and imaging; the widespread adoption of electronic health records; and the proliferation of medical Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices are resulting in an explosion of structured and unstructured healthcare-related data. Read more…

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Gordon Bell Prize used Summit in their work. That’s impres Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Accelerates AI Inference in the Datacenter with T4 GPU

September 14, 2018

Nvidia is upping its game for AI inference in the datacenter with a new platform consisting of an inference accelerator chip--the new Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU- Read more…

By George Leopold

DeepSense Combines HPC and AI to Bolster Canada’s Ocean Economy

September 13, 2018

We often hear scientists say that we know less than 10 percent of the life of the oceans. This week, IBM and a group of Canadian industry and government partner Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Rigetti (and Others) Pursuit of Quantum Advantage

September 11, 2018

Remember ‘quantum supremacy’, the much-touted but little-loved idea that the age of quantum computing would be signaled when quantum computers could tackle Read more…

By John Russell

How FPGAs Accelerate Financial Services Workloads

September 11, 2018

While FSI companies are unlikely, for competitive reasons, to disclose their FPGA strategies, James Reinders offers insights into the case for FPGAs as accelerators for FSI by discussing performance, power, size, latency, jitter and inline processing. Read more…

By James Reinders

Update from Gregory Kurtzer on Singularity’s Push into FS and the Enterprise

September 11, 2018

Container technology is hardly new but it has undergone rapid evolution in the HPC space in recent years to accommodate traditional science workloads and HPC systems requirements. While Docker containers continue to dominate in the enterprise, other variants are becoming important and one alternative with distinctly HPC roots – Singularity – is making an enterprise push targeting advanced scale workload inclusive of HPC. Read more…

By John Russell

At HPC on Wall Street: AI-as-a-Service Accelerates AI Journeys

September 10, 2018

AIaaS – artificial intelligence-as-a-service – is the technology discipline that eases enterprise entry into the mysteries of the AI journey while lowering Read more…

By Doug Black

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17


AMD @ SC17


ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack



DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17


IBM @ SC17


IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17


Lenovo @ SC17


Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17


Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17


Tyan @ SC17


Univa @ SC17


Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

June 25, 2018

The top 10 echelon of the newly minted Top500 list boasts three powerful new systems with one common engine: the Nvidia Volta V100 general-purpose graphics proc Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This