IDF 2014 – The Four “A’s” of Industry Standard Data Center Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  September 17, 2104

Last week, while most of the world was mooning over the latest revolutionary iPhone launch extravaganza in Cupertino, a different sort of revolution was taking place in San Francisco at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2014. Amidst a host of other new and/or improved products and initiatives, Intel introduced the newest addition to its Xeon processor line for servers, storage, networking and workstations—the E5-2600/1600 v3 families based on Intel’s latest/greatest “Haswell” 22nm process.

But there’s more to the chips than cutting edge manufacturing capabilities. According to Intel, the new processor families boost performance by up to 3x over the previous generation ES-2600 products, and also deliver world-class energy efficiency and enhanced security. To answer increasing demand for software-defined infrastructure (SDI) solutions, Intel has added telemetry features, including sensors and metrics for CPU, I/O and memory utilization. Those innovations will enable the delivery of SDI-based services with optimized performance, resilience and total cost of ownership.

Xeon E5-2600 v3 products get there with up to 18 cores per socket and 45MB of last-level cache, which translates into up to 50 percent more cores and cache compared to the previous generation processors. In addition, an extension to Intel Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (Intel AVX2) doubles the width of vector integer instructions and delivers up to 1.9x higher performance gains.

The new processors offer other enhancements over previous generation Xeon products. These include improvements in virtualization density, supporting up to 70 percent more VMs per server, next-generation DDR4 memory technologies that will deliver up to 1.4x higher performance for memory constrained applications, and enhancements to Intel’s Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (AES-NI) that can accelerate data encryption and decryption by up to 2x without sacrificing application response times.

Pricing is attractive for a new generation platform, ranging from $213 to $2,702 in quantities of 1,000 for the E5-2600 v3 server product family and from $295 to $1,723 for the Xeon E5-1600 workstation solutions. Not surprisingly, Intel OEMs, including Bull, Cray, Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, Huawei, IBM, Inspur, Lenovo, NEC, Oracle, Quanta, Radisys, SGI, Sugon, Supermicro and many others plan to build servers, storage and networking solutions based on Intel’s new silicon.

What Does Industry Standard IT Require?

The role of industry standardization in the IT sector has become a bit obscure, in large part because of a blurring of the critical role that manufacturing plays in overall innovation. Early in the 20th century, standardization of components like nuts and bolts enabled manufacturers of products, including automobiles and industrial equipment, to gain significant, material production and economic benefits, and to then expand efforts around developing new and improved products.

Intel followed a similar path in creating its signature x86 microprocessor architecture that now powers over 90% of the data center solutions sold annually, but the company has also significantly extended the notion of industry standardization in the process. While the x86 architecture foundation remains firm, Intel made continual, significant improvements that has allow solutions based on Xeon processors to steadily seek, inhabit and lead existing and emerging markets.

The new and improved features in the Xeon E5-2600/1600 v3 families – more cores, larger cache, DDR4 memory and telemetry sensors and metrics – should allow solutions based on the new chips to continue their winning ways in areas, including high performance computing, data analytics, telecommunications and cloud, and to successfully find myriad opportunities in burgeoning software-defined infrastructure services and applications.

Final Analysis

Overall, we believe that successful industry standard information technologies deliver four particular benefits:

  1. Affordable – Superior to proprietary platforms
  2. Available – Produced and sold in volume
  3. Agile – Valuable across multiple use cases
  4. Adaptable – To new workloads and processes

As has been the case in previous generation Xeon technologies, Intel’s new Xeon E5-2600/1600 v3 solutions deliver all of these benefits in full, and should also act as precursors to future generations of Intel silicon.

Last week, though most of IT may have been fixated on Apple’s latest revolutionary additions to its smart phone portfolio, at IDF 2014 the continuing evolution of industry standard data center computing seemed secure.

© 2014 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.