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Intel unveils new Xeon x86 processor: Nehalem-EX

Intel released 11 variations of its new 6500 and 7500 line of server processors, but many IT managers might not be ready for the jump in performance.

Intel has announced its latest x86 Xeon server processor on Tuesday. Called the Xeon 6500 and 7500 and code-named "Nehalem-EX," the chip maxes out at eight cores and targets four-socket and larger systems. But IT managers have observed the releases with measured interest, and it will likely take time before many upgrade.

For more on Intel and AMD server processors:
AMD builds new Opteron x86 chips for memory-heavy apps

New multicore chips could create VMware licensing snafu

 The Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel Corp. made its announcement just a day after Advanced Micro Devices Inc. announced new 12-core x86 Opteron chips, and about a week after Intel announced upgrades to its Xeon Nehalem chip line built for one- and two-socket systems.

Intel has released 11 chip variations, ranging in cost from the 1.73 GHz, quad-core, 105-watt E6510 at $744 to the 2.26 GHz, eight-core, 130-watt X7560 at $3,692. Of the 11 chips, three are in the 6500 line, which targets the high-performance computing market, and the rest are for enterprise customers.

Users cast circumspect eye on Intel chip
IT managers' reaction to Intel 's chip releases remains cautions. A senior systems administrator at a Bay area marketing and media company, for example, has no immediate plans to evaluate the new AMD Opteron or Intel Xeon. When he does explore the chips, the company doesn't always go with the chip with the most horsepower.

"We try to standardize on the same system with the same specs for a few years, and even then we usually get the processor that's at the 'sweet spot' between the highest performer and a reasonable price."

Similarly, Matthew Leeds, the vice president of IT at the digital media company Gracenote, said his company recently evaluated Xeon 5500 processors, which Intel released last year. But, he said, he expects to evaluate the new AMD and Intel CPUs in the coming months.

A great leap forward for x86 architecture?
While data center managers have cast a circumspect eye on the chip releases, Intel touts the new chip as a watershed moment.

In a webcast on Tuesday, the VP of the Intel Architecture Group, Kirk Skaugen, called Nehalem-EX the "biggest leap in performance in the history of Intel Xeon" compared with its predecessor, the Intel Xeon 7400 chip code-named "Potomac," which released in 2005. He also explained that the Nehalem-EX is the first Xeon processor to use Machine Check Architecture (MCA) recovery, which allows the chip to work with the operating system and virtual machine manager to recover from errors. Previously the feature was available only in Intel's Itanium processor as well as in mainframes and RISC architectures. Tony Iams, an analyst at Ideas International Inc. In Rye Brook, N.Y., said he expects Nehalem-EX to introduce "breakthrough performance, which could have significant impact on the competitiveness of x86 servers relative to RISC systems."

During the webcast, Skaugen invited Stanley Young, the CEO of NYSE Technologies, to the stage. Young said his company has huge data centers in two major sites, one in the U.S. on the East Coast, and another in London. The facilities, he said, need to be close to trading markets so that response time is as quick as possible.

"Microseconds count, and people now talk about nanoseconds," he said. Though he didn't say when, Young added that his company plans to adopt Nehalem-EX servers to replace older x86 servers, using virtualization to consolidate applications onto fewer servers. That will decrease latency, because information can be moved more quickly from one application to another if the two applications are on the same physical server.

"It's all about latency," he said, adding that they're "excited to essentially collapse a number of applications we have to run on separate servers at the moment."

Mark Fontecchio can be reached at

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