Intel Ups The Ante At The High End With New E7 CPUs

Bigger, Better, Faster Xeon CPUs

Intel today publicly announced its anticipated “Westmere EX” high end Westmere architecture server CPU as the E7, now part of a new family nomenclature encompassing entry (E3), midrange (E5), and high-end server CPUs (E7), and at first glance it certainly looks like it delivers on the promise of the Westmere architecture with enhancements that will appeal to buyers of high-end x86 systems.

The E7 in a nutshell:

  • 32 nm CPU with up to 10 cores, each with hyper threading, for up to 20 threads per socket.
  •  Intel claims that the system-level performance will be up to 40% higher than the prior generation 8-core Nehalem EX. Notice that the per-core performance improvement is modest (although Intel does offer a SKU with 8 cores and a slightly higher clock rate for those desiring ultimate performance per thread).
  • Improvements in security with Intel Advanced Encryption Standard New Instruction (AES-NI) and Intel Trusted Execution Technology (Intel TXT).
  • Major improvements in power management by incorporating the power management capabilities from the Xeon 5600 CPUs, which include more aggressive P states, improved idle power operation, and the ability to separately reduce individual core power setting depending on workload, although to what extent this is supported on systems that do not incorporate Intel’s Node Manager software is not clear.

What Does This Mean? A Clear Win For x86 Server Workloads

It’s hard to find a downside to this announcement. Intel extends its performance franchise even further into what was legacy RISC/UNIX territory with this announcement, and Linux and Windows workloads get a platform that improves performance significantly without requiring any system redesign, ensuring a rapid flow of product into the market, as evidenced by the more than 35 products from a long list of system vendors including Bull, Cisco, Cray, Dawning, Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Lenovo, NEC, Oracle, SGI, Supermicro, and Unisys.

Updating the performance chart from x86 Servers Hit The High Notes, published December 22, 2010, if we factor in the potential for larger than 8-socket x86 servers that can be built using the new E7, in addition to the immediate improvement from inserting the E7 into current Xeon 7500 architectures, the performance potential of x86 servers looks poised to take a significant jump over the next 12 months.