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Intel intros low-voltage quad-core Xeon ahead of AMD

Intel's first foray into low-voltage processors may have been a flop, but data center managers' increased interest in power efficiency bodes well for its new quad-core Xeon processor.

Intel Corp. announced a new quad-core Xeon processor this week, which uses less power than previous models.

The two new energy-efficient 50W server processors represent a 35% to nearly 60% decrease in power over existing 80W and 120W quad-core server products, the company reported.

More quad-core processor news:
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These new processors require 12.5W of power for each of the four cores or processing engines, while delivering similar performance to other Xeon processors.

Servers based on the new low-power quad-core Xeon processors are designed for dense Internet data centers, blade servers and industries, such as financial services, where the scale and density of servers are highly sensitive to power, real estate and cooling costs, Intel reported.

The cost savings potential by replacing aging infrastructure with quad-core Intel Xeon processors and deploying virtualization technology can be as much as $6,000 per year over the lifetime of each server, Intel reported from its own evaluations.

Second time around

Illuminata Inc. analyst Gordon Haff said he expects the new low-power processors to fare better than other low-power processors have.

"Intel has released low-power processors in the past, Sossaman, for example. They've tended to not be particularly popular but I expect that is changing -- at least for some application types -- given the increased focus on power efficiency," Haff said. "Most buyers didn't want to trade off performance in exchange for lower power."

Intel released Sossaman, its first low-voltage Xeon processor at this time last year. That processor supported most of the features earlier Xeons did, such as virtualization technology, but didn't support 64-bit operations so it couldn't run 64-bit-only server software.

Subsequent low-voltage Xeons were designed to support 64-bit operations, as are the newest offerings, said Intel spokesperson Erica Fields.

"(Lower power chips) have been steadily picking up in popularity … power efficiency has become an area of focus in the data center," Fields said. "OEMs are increasing their emphasis on power efficiency in their product lines, and the low-voltage products are very appealing from that perspective.

"In the past we have only offered one low-voltage processor in a particular product line and our decision to offer two low-voltage quad-core Xeons this time was to help enable the OEMs build a more in-depth product offering which includes lower power parts," Fields said.

Intel's two new low-voltage processors are the Quad-Core Intel Xeon process or L5320 and L5310. The new 50W quad-core processors operate at 1.86 GHz and 1.60 GHz, respectively, feature a unique 8 MB of on-die cache for faster memory data communication and run on dedicated 1066 MHz front-side buses.

These processors can be coupled with Intel's existing Bensley server platform and have been designed to be drop-in compatible with the existing dual-core and quad-core Intel Xeon processor families.

Intel has introduced 11 server, workstation and desktop PC quad-core processors since November.

Intel engineers and architects are working to develop more power saving innovations, according to a statement by Kirk Skaugen, vice president of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group and general manager of the Server Platform Group.

California-based Rackable Systems, a server and storage product provider for large-scale data centers, was quick to announce it has adopted the newest low-voltage Xeons, available within 30 days.

Servers based on Intel's new processors are expected to be available worldwide over the next few months from other companies as well, including Acer Inc., Dell Inc., Digital Henge Co. Ltd., Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), HCL Technologies Ltd., IBM, Samsung, Verari Systems Inc. and Wipro Ltd.

AMD unfazed

This product release puts Intel several steps ahead of competitor Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) in the quad-core arena.

AMD isn't worried though, Intel still has to catch up with its processor quality, Spokesman Scott Malish said in a statement on behalf of AMD.

"Even with this latest rollout, Intel is still playing catch-up to AMD in terms of performance per watt (PPW), a gap that will widen even further when we introduce Barcelona later this year," Malish said in an email statement from AMD. "AMD's lead in PPW stems from its better design. Intel cannot fundamentally catch up with AMD unless it drastically overhauls its architecture, something that's not planned for another several years … And while Intel may be improving this aspect of its products, the company has yet to address the fundamental issue of its processor architecture."

AMD's quad-core processor, Barcelona, will differ from Intel's quad-core products because it will be native. Intel's quad-core is made up of two dual-processor chips packaged together.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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