Enterprise IT shops using server virtualization now have an eight-core Intel Xeon CPU that supports more memory and broadens the use case for 10 Gigabit Ethernet. IBM, HP and Dell all introduced servers based on the new chip.
The latest Intel Corp. Xeon E5-2600 CPU supports up to eight cores per processor — an increase from six cores in the Xeon 5600 series. It also supports up to 768 gigabytes (GB) of system memory on up to 24 DIMMs, up from 288 GB on up to 18 DIMMs with the Xeon 5600.
The new specs will be particularly beneficial for virtual environments and cloud computing because of the scalability this chip provides. It means “more virtual machines per server and the ability to consolidate VMs onto a smaller number of physical servers,” said Nathan Brookwood, analyst with Insight64 in Saratoga, Calif.
HP’s ProLiant Gen8 Server series supports the new memory spec today, as do Dell’s new PowerEdge series of servers. Dell’s PowerEdge R820, a 2U, four-socket server, supports up to 48 DIMMs for a total memory capacity of 1.5 terabytes (TB). IBM’s System x 3650 M4 server will also support the new CPU when it ships in two weeks.
Intel Xeon E5-2600 broadens 10 GbE use case
Intel’s E5-2600 will make 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) networking easier in enterprise data centers, where today it’s typically used in backbone switches rather than end-to-end.
Intel now supports PCI Express (PCIe) Generation 3.0, increasing the overall bandwidth within the chip. It also offers the new Intel Ethernet Controller X540, a single-chip system with copper-based 10GBaseT connectivity for 10 GbE LAN on motherboard (LOM). LOM refers to a chip or chipset embedded in a server’s motherboard, instead of requiring a separate network interface card.
Previously, LAN on motherboard was limited to gigabit speeds, according to Brookwood.
“This is enabling 10 Gigabit Ethernet without dragging down the rest of the system performance or swamping the I/O performance with the Ethernet requirements,” he said. “Because the 10 gigabit chips are becoming more affordable and because the PCI bandwidth on the processor has expanded, it’s thinkable to put 10 gigabit down everywhere.”
OEMs, meanwhile, are offering new network cards with a combination of Gigabit Ethernet and 10 GbE connectivity. HP and Dell have sourced a variety of cards from Broadcom — HP calls it FlexNet, Dell calls it Network Daughter Cards — and IBM has worked with Emulex’s Virtual Fabric Technology.
Increased support for 10 GbE could also mean increased adoption of converged Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) networking, which requires 10 GbE. “This is important for IT – having to manage all those separate networks is a pain for these guys,” Brookwood said.
Integrated I/O for performance boost
Intel’s E5-2600 also includes Integrated I/O, or IIO, feature moves the I/O controller from a separate chip on the motherboard onto the processor die.
IIO works in combination with PCIe 3.0 support and another feature Intel calls Data Direct I/O, which lets Ethernet controllers and adapters route I/O traffic directly to processor cache, reducing trips to system memory. These features can also be used to speed direct-attached storage (DAS) performance with solid-state or spinning disks, as well as boosting network I/O.
Now, the I/O infrastructure is much more central to the chip design, which is something that has been lacking in x86 chip designs relative to RISC, POWER and mainframe chips, said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst with Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H.
“This is big system design,” and it will put even more pressure on non-commodity chip types, Eunice said.
“We’re consolidating the number of architectures in the industry that we think are reasonable to support,” he said. “This basically says to an enterprise developer, ‘Do you really need those other platforms that you’re using in your shop?’”
Dell, HP and IBM have all added mechanisms for attaching solid-state drives (SSDs) directly to the CPU to boost performance. Dell’s new PowerEdge series comes with ExpressFlash. IBM’s System x 3650 M4 comes with IBM eXFlash. HP’s ProLiant Gen8s will ship with Dynamic Workload Acceleration.
Xeon E5-2600 Pricing
The Xeon processor E5-2600 line will be offered with 17 different parts which range in price from $198 to $2,050 in quantities of 1,000.
Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchDataCenter.com. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.