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!

Pfizer HPC Engineer Aims to Automate Software Stack Testing

January 17, 2019

Seeking to reign in the tediousness of manual software testing, Pfizer HPC Engineer Shahzeb Siddiqui is developing an open source software tool called buildtest, aimed at automating software stack testing by providing the community with a central repository of tests for common HPC apps and the ability to automate execution of testing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Senegal Prepares to Take Delivery of Atos Supercomputer

January 16, 2019

In just a few months time, Senegal will be operating the second largest HPC system in sub-Saharan Africa. The Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Mary Teuw Niane made the announcement on Monday (Jan. 14 Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three big public cloud vendors has by turn touted the latest and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Systems With Intel Omni-Path: Architected for Value and Accessible High-Performance Computing

Today’s high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) users value high performing clusters. And the higher the performance that their system can deliver, the better. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Resource Management in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

New challenges demand fresh approaches

Fueled by GPUs, big data, and rapid advances in software, the AI revolution is upon us. Read more…

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchmark or suite of benchmarking tools to compare the performanc Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchm Read more…

By John Russell

A Big Data Journey While Seeking to Catalog our Universe

January 16, 2019

It turns out, astronomers have lots of photos of the sky but seek knowledge about what the photos mean. Sound familiar? Big data problems are often characterize Read more…

By James Reinders

Intel Bets Big on 2-Track Quantum Strategy

January 15, 2019

Quantum computing has lived so long in the future it’s taken on a futuristic life of its own, with a Gartner-style hype cycle that includes triggers of innovation, inflated expectations and – though a useful quantum system is still years away – anticipatory troughs of disillusionment. Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM’s New Global Weather Forecasting System Runs on GPUs

January 9, 2019

Anyone who has checked a forecast to decide whether or not to pack an umbrella knows that weather prediction can be a mercurial endeavor. It is a Herculean task: the constant modeling of incredibly complex systems to a high degree of accuracy at a local level within very short spans of time. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

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

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer 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

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