Intel Unveils New Xeon Chips for More Dynamic Data Center

by Jeffrey Burt

The Xeon E5-2600 v2 lineup includes almost two-dozen chips for not only servers but also storage and networking systems.

SAN FRANCISCO—Intel executives a week ago unveiled the company’s Atom C2000 “Avoton” family of processors that included 13 different models tweaked to handle varying workloads, a nod to the growing demand in data centers for components optimized for particular tasks.

At the Intel Developer Forum here Sept. 10, the company announced the latest generation of its Xeon E5-2600 server chips which includes 21 different products that can address not only server workloads, but also storage and networking jobs and can address everything from cloud computing to high-performance computing demands.

The 22-nanometer E5-2600 v2 “Ivy Bridge” processors come one year after Intel launched the first-generation “Sandy Bridge” E5-2600 chips, and offer as much as 50 percent better performance and 45 percent greater energy efficiency than their predecessors, Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Datacenter and Connected Systems Group, told analysts and journalists at the show.

The chips offer up to 12 cores with speeds of between 1.7GHz and 3.5GHz.

Systems makers like IBM, Cisco Systems, Cray, Lenovo and SGI announced plans for new servers based on the Ivy Bridge chips, while Hewlett-Packard at an event in New York City showed off a revamped Z portfolio of workstations that will be powered by the new processors.

The new chips continue what has been a busy few months for Intel’s data center unit, though much of the past efforts have focused on the Atom C2000 systems-on-a-chip (SoC), which are aimed at small systems running lightweight workloads. However, Bryant’s message for the new Xeons echo what she has said about the new Atom processors: that demands in the data center are rapidly changing, and that component makers must adapt their products to meet those demands.

Driving the changes are the rise of cloud computing and the rapid increase in the number of connected devices in the hands of consumers and business users alike. Businesses want to spin out cloud services as quickly as possible, and the infrastructure must be able to handle the data storage and networking demands the billions of connected devices place on it. Greater automation, flexibility and scalability are crucial, Bryant said.

The Xeon E5-2600 v2 chips are designed to provide the flexibility data center infrastructures need to deal with the variety of workloads in the data center, she said. The different chips in the family have varying features such as core counts, frequencies and accelerators that enable them to address different applications.

IBM is using the processors as the basis for its new NeXtScale x86 system, which officials said will be aimed at such workloads as cloud computing, social media, analytics and technical computing in large data centers and cloud environments. NeXtScale will run up to 84 x86-based systems and 2,016 cores in a standard 19-inch rack, creating a flexible environment for a range of workloads. The system, aimed at such workloads as cloud and high-performance computing, will be released in October, Roland Hagen, vice president of IBM System x marketing, said. Storage units based on the new Xeon chips will roll out in November, and networking systems and others that incorporate GPU accelerators and Xeon Phi co-processors will come next year.

There has been speculation this year that Lenovo has been negotiating with IBM to buy Big Blue’s x86 server business. However, Hagen said IBM is committed to investing $1 billion over the next three years on System x research and development.

At IDF, Lenovo officials previewed upcoming ThinkServer rack systems that will use the Xeon E5-2600 v2 chips. The systems, which will be announced later this year, also will include Lenovo’s Smart Grid technology, which leverages Intel’s Node Manager Technology for policy-based management.

Supercomputer maker Cray said its XC30 Series of systems and CS300 line of cluster supercomputers are available with the new chips, while SGI is supporting the chips in its ICE X supercomputers, Rackable line of servers and Modular InfiniteStorage systems. Cisco upgraded its Unified Computing System (UCS) lineup with the new Intel chips.

Amazon Web Services also will offer users of its cloud computing services systems running the new chips, Ariel Kelman, head of worldwide marketing for Amazon Web Services, said.

Intel’s Bryant also noted how the systems will enable new storage and networking solutions that will help push the software-defined data center vision. In addition, Intel announced its Network Builders Program aimed at encouraging partners to leverage Intel processor technology to build solutions around software-defined networking (SDN).

Networking represents a key growth area for Intel in the data center. While the company has about 93 percent of the server chip market, and is in about 80 percent of storage systems, currently only about 10 percent of networking products run on Intel chips, Bryant said. The company earlier this year unveiled SDN and switch reference architectures called “Sunrise Trail” and “Seacliff Trail.” The Network Builders Program—similar to the Cloud Builders Program the company already rolled out—adds to Intel’s networking push.

Originally published on eWeek.
This article was originally published on Tuesday Sep 10th 2013
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