New Intel Xeon D Broadwell Processors Aimed at Low Power, High Density Servers

Subject: Editorial, Processors | March 12, 2015 - 08:29 PM |
Tagged: Xeon D, xeon, servers, opinion, microserver, Intel

Intel dealt a blow to AMD and ARM this week with the introduction of the Xeon Processor D Product Family of low power server SoCs. The new Xeon D chips use Intel’s latest 14nm process and top out at 45W. The chips are aimed at low power high density servers for general web hosting, storage clusters, web caches, and networking hardware.

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Currently, Intel has announced two Xeon D chips, the Xeon D-1540 and Xeon D-1520. Both chips are comprised of two dies inside a single package. The main die uses a 14nm process and holds the CPU cores, L3 cache, DDR3 and DDR4 memory controllers, networking controller, PCI-E 3.0, and USB 3.0 while a secondary die using a larger (but easier to implement) manufacturing process hosts the higher latency I/O that would traditionally sit on the southbridge including SATA, PCI-E 2.0, and USB 2.0.

In all, a fairly typical SoC setup from Intel. The specifics are where things get interesting, however. At the top end, Xeon D offers eight Broadwell-based CPU cores (with Hyper-Threading for 16 total threads) clocked at 2.0 GHz base and 2.5 GHz max all-core Turbo (2.6 GHz on a single core). The cores are slightly more efficient than Haswell, especially in this low power setup. The eight cores can tap into 12MB of L3 cache as well as up to 128GB of registered ECC memory (or 64GB unbuffered and/or SODIMMs) in DDR3 1600 MHz or DDR4 2133 MHz flavors. Xeon D also features 24 PCI-E 3.0 lanes (which can be broken up to as small as six PCI-E 3.0 x4 lanes or in a x16+x8 configuration among others), eight PCI-E 2.0 lanes, two 10GbE connections, six SATA III 6.0 Gbps channels, four USB 3.0 ports, and four USB 2.0 ports.

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All of this hardware is rolled into a part with a 45W TDP. Needless to say, this is a new level of efficiency for Xeons! Intel chose to compare the new chips to its Atom C2000 “Avoton” (Silvermont-based) SoCs which were also aimed at low power servers and related devices. According to the company, Xeon D offers up to 3.4-times the performance and 1.7-times the performance-per-watt of the top end Atom C2750 processor. Keeping in mind that Xeon D uses approximately twice the power as Atom C2000, it is still looking good for Intel since you are getting more than twice the performance and a more power efficient part. Further, while the TDPs are much higher,

Intel has packed Xeon D with a slew of power management technology including Integrated Voltage Regulation (IVR), an energy efficient turbo mode that will analyze whether increased frequencies actually help get work done faster (and if not will reduce turbo to allow extra power to be used elsewhere on the chip or to simply reduce wasted energy), and optional “hardware power management” that allows the processor itself to determine the appropriate power and sleep states independently from the OS.

Being server parts, Xeon D supports ECC, PCI-E Non-Transparent Bridging, memory and PCI-E Checksums, and corrected (errata-free) TSX instructions.

Ars Technica notes that Xeon D is strictly single socket and that Intel has reserved multi-socket servers for its higher end and more expensive Xeons (Haswell-EP). Where does the “high density” I mentioned come from then? Well, by cramming as many Xeon D SoCs on small motherboards with their own RAM and IO into rack mounted cases as possible, of course! It is hard to say just how many Xeon Ds will fit in a 1U, 2U, or even 4U rack mounted system without seeing associated motherboards and networking hardware needed but Xeon D should fare better than Avoton in this case since we are looking at higher bandwidth networking links and more PCI-E lanes, but AMD with SeaMicro’s Freedom Fabric and head start on low power x86 and ARM-based Opteron chip research as well as other ARM-based companies like AppliedMicro (X-Gene) will have a slight density advantage (though the Intel chips will be faster per chip).

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Which brings me to my final point. Xeon D truly appears like a shot across both ARM and AMD’s bow. It seems like Intel is not content with it’s dominant position in the overall server market and is putting its weight into a move to take over the low power server market as well, a niche that ARM and AMD in particular have been actively pursuing. Intel is not quite to the low power levels that AMD and other ARM-based companies are, but bringing Xeon down to 45W (with Atom-based solutions going upwards performance wise), the Intel juggernaut is closing in and I’m interested to see how it all plays out.

Right now, ARM still has the TDP and customization advantage (where customers can create custom chips and cores to suit their exact needs) and AMD will be able to leverage its GPU expertise by including processor graphics for a leg up on highly multi-threaded GPGPU workloads. On the other hand, Intel has the better manufacturing process and engineering budget. Xeon D seems to be the first step towards going after a market that they have in the past not really focused on.

With Intel pushing its weight around, where will that leave the little guys that I have been rooting for in this low power high density server space?

Source: Intel

ASUS Announces UEFI Update with Socketed 5th-Gen Intel Broadwell Support for 9 Series Motherboards

Subject: Processors | March 10, 2015 - 10:20 AM |
Tagged: uefi, motherboards, lga 1150, Intel, Broadwell, bios, asus

ASUS has announced that all current Intel 9 Series motherboards will support the upcoming 5th-Generation Intel Broadwell LGA 1150 CPUs with an UEFI update.

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We reported last week that Intel’s 5th-generation Broadwell CPU had been demonstrated at GDC using Intel’s Iris Pro graphics, though official details about the new LGA versions of Broadwell are not yet public. The desktop variants will no doubt use the same 14nm process technology of the current BGA parts, and it has been rumored that the new CPUs will initially launch in both Core i5 and i7 versions, with the potential for Core i3 and Pentium branded parts to follow (though any potential product information is mere speculation at this point).

It will be interesting to see if the upcoming LGA 5th-Generation CPUs will be able offer any higher perfomance for desktop users compared to existing Haswell parts (such as the i7-4790K), or if there will even be unlocked processors. Considering Broadwell is a mobile-focused part designed for efficency and lower power consumption the chips could offer a compelling solution for small form-factor computers such as HTPCs, as they will presumably provide lower heat and higher IPC than existing parts.

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The UEFI updates will go live later today (some updates have already been released) and include all ASUS motherboard models with Z97 and H97 chipsets.

Source: ASUS

GDC 15: Intel Demos Socketed, LGA1150 Broadwell CPU with Iris Pro Graphics

Subject: Processors | March 4, 2015 - 09:07 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, Intel, Broadwell, iris pro, LGA1150, core i7

Consumer have been asking for it since the first time Intel announced it, but Iris Pro graphics is finally finding its way to the desktop, socketed market. Shown powering one of Dell's new 5K displays, this processor shipping in "mid-2015", is going to be configured with a 65 watt TDP and will be unlocked for overclockers to tweak. Intel first disclosed these plans way back in May of 2014 so we are going to be approaching the 12-month mark for availability.

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It doesn't look special, but this system has the first desktop Iris Pro processor

In a new disclosure at GDC, Intel showed the first 5th Generation Core LGA-socketed CPU with Intel® Iris™ Pro graphics. This 65 watt unlocked desktop processor, available mid-2015, will bring new levels of performance and power efficiency to Mini PCs and desktop All-In-Ones. Since 2006 the 3D performance of Intel Graphics has increased nearly 100 fold (Intel 3DMark06 measurements) and powerful form factors from Acer, Medion and Intel’s own NUCs are becoming available with 5th Generation Intel Core processors with Intel Iris Graphics.

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Under that little heatsink...

Details of this new CPU offering, including clock speed and graphics performance, are still unknown but Intel claims we will have this part in our hands in the near future. This isn't targeted to overtake consumers with mid-range discrete graphics systems but instead will bring users interested in a SFF or low power system with both home theater features and improved gaming capability. Our testing with Iris Pro graphics in notebooks has proven that the gaming performance gains can be substantial, but often the battery life demands have limited implementations from OEMs. With a desktop part, we might actually be able to see the full capability of an integrated GPU with embedded memory.

GDC 15: Intel shows 3DMark API Overhead Test at Work

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | March 4, 2015 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, API, dx12, DirectX 12, dx11, Mantle, 3dmark, Futuremark

It's probably not a surprise to most that Futuremark is working on a new version of 3DMark around the release of DirectX 12. What might be new for you is that this version will include an API overhead test, used to evaluate a hardware configuration's ability to affect performance in Mantle, DX11 and DX12 APIs.

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While we don't have any results quite yet (those are pending and should be very soon), Intel was showing the feature test running at an event at GDC tonight. In what looks like a simple cityscape being rendered over and over, the goal is to see how many draw calls, or how fast the CPU can react to a game engine, the API and hardware can be.

The test was being showcased on an Intel-powered notebook using a 5th Generation Core processor, code named Broadwell. Obviously this points to the upcoming support for DX12 (though obviously not Mantle) that Intel's integrated GPUs will provide.

It should be very interesting to see how much of an advantage DX12 offers over DX11, even on Intel's wide ranges of consumer and enthusiast processors.

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Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

SoFIA, Cherry Trail Make Debuts

Mobile World Congress is traditionally dominated by Samsung, Qualcomm, HTC, and others yet Intel continues to make in-roads into the mobile market. Though the company has admittedly lost a lot of money during this growing process, Intel pushes forward with today's announcement of a trio of new processor lines that keep the Atom brand. The Atom x3, the Atom x5, and the Atom x7 will be the company's answer in 2015 for a wide range of products, starting at the sub-$75 phone market and stretching up to ~$400 tablets and all-in-ones.

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There are some significant differences in these Atom processors, more than the naming scheme might indicate.

Intel Atom x3 SoFIA Processor

For years now we have questioned Intel's capability to develop a processor that could fit inside the thermal envelope that is required for a smartphone while also offering performance comparable to Qualcomm, MediaTek, and others. It seemed that the x86 architecture was a weight around Intel's ankles rather than a float lifting it up. Intel's answer was the development of SoFIA, (S)mart (o)r (F)eature phone with (I)ntel (A)rchitecture. The project started about 2 years ago leading to product announcements finally reaching us today. SoFIA parts are "designed for budget smartphones; SoFIA is set to give Qualcomm and MediaTek a run for their money in this rapidly growing part of the market."

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The SoFIA processors are based on the same Silvermont architecture as the current generation of Atom processors, but they are more tuned for power efficiency. Originally planned to be a dual-core only option, Intel has actually built both dual-core and quad-core variants that will pair with varying modem options to create a combination that best fit target price points and markets. Intel has partnered with RockChip for these designs, even though the architecture is completely IA/x86 based. Production will be done on a 28nm process technology at an unnamed vendor, though you can expect that to mean TSMC. This allows RockChip access to the designs, to help accelerate development, and to release them into the key markets that Intel is targeting.

Continue reading our look at the new Intel Atom x3, x5 and x7 Processors!!

AMD is avoiding the heat in Carrizo

Subject: Processors | February 24, 2015 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: Puma+, Puma, Kaveri, ISSCC 2015, ISSCC, GCN, Excavator, Carrizo-L, carrizo, APU, amd

While it is utterly inconceivable that Josh might have missed something in his look at Carrizo, that hasn't stopped certain Canadians from talking about Gila County, Arizona.  AMD's upcoming processor launch is a little more interesting than just another Phenom II launch, especially for those worried about power consumption.  With Adaptive Voltage and Frequency Scaling the new Excavator based chips will run very well at the sub-15W per core pair range which is perfect for POS, airplane entertainment and even in casinos.  The GPU portion speaks to those usage scenarios though you can't expect an R9 295 at that wattage.  Check out Hardware Canucks' coverage right here.

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"AMD has been working hard on their mobile Carrizo architecture and they're now releasing some details about these Excavator architecture-equipped next generation APUs."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

AMD Details Carrizo Further

Some months back AMD introduced us to their “Carrizo” product.  Details were slim, but we learned that this would be another 28 nm part that has improved power efficiency over its predecessor.  It would be based on the new “Excavator” core that will be the final implementation of the Bulldozer architecture.  The graphics will be based on the latest iteration of the GCN architecture as well.  Carrizo would be a true SOC in that it integrates the southbridge controller.  The final piece of information that we received was that it would be interchangeable with the Carrizo-L SOC, which is a extremely low power APU based on the Puma+ cores.

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A few months later we were invited by AMD to their CES meeting rooms to see early Carrizo samples in action.  These products were running a variety of applications very smoothly, but we were not informed of speeds and actual power draw.  All that we knew is that Carrizo was working and able to run pretty significant workloads like high quality 4K video playback.  Details were yet again very scarce other than the expected timeline of release, the TDP ratings of these future parts, and how it was going to be a significant jump in energy efficiency over the previous Kaveri based APUs.

AMD is presenting more information on Carrizo at the ISSCC 2015 conference.  This information dives a little deeper into how AMD has made the APU smaller, more power efficient, and faster overall than the previous 15 watt to 35 watt APUs based on Kaveri.  AMD claims that they have a product that will increase power efficiency in a way not ever seen before for the company.  This is particularly important considering that Carrizo is still a 28 nm product.

Click here to read more about AMD's ISSCC presentation on Carrizo!

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Manufacturer: Intel

Intel Pushes Broadwell to the Next Unit of Computing

Intel continues to invest a significant amount of money into this small form factor product dubbed the Next Unit of Computing, or NUC. When it was initially released in December of 2012, the NUC was built as an evolutionary step of the desktop PC, part of a move for Intel to find new and unique form factors that its processors can exist in. With a 4" x 4" motherboard design the NUC is certainly a differentiating design and several of Intel's partners have adopted it for products of their: Gigabyte's BRIX line being the most relevant. 

But Intel's development team continues to push the NUC platform forward and today we are evaluating the most recent iteration. The Intel NUC5i5RYK is based on the latest 14nm Broadwell processor and offers improved CPU performance, a higher speed GPU and lower power consumption. All of this is packed into a smaller package than any previous NUC on the market and the result is both impressive and totally expected.

A Walk Around the NUC

To most poeple the latest Intel NUC will look very similar to the previous models based on Ivy Bridge and Haswell. You'd be right of course - the fundamental design is unchanged. But Intel continues to push forward in small ways, nipping and tucking away. But the NUC is still just a box. An incredibly small one with a lot of hardware crammed into it, but a box none the less.

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While I can appreciate the details including the black and silver colors and rounded edges, I think that Intel needs to find a way to add some more excitement into the NUC product line going forward. Admittedly, it is hard to inovate in that directions with a focus on size and compression.

Continue reading our review of the Intel NUC NUC5i5RYK SFF!!

Author:
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Qualcomm

New Features and Specifications

Introduction

It is increasingly obvious that in the high end smartphone and tablet market, much like we saw occur over the last several years in the PC space, consumers are becoming more concerned with features and experiences than just raw specifications. There is still plenty to drool over when looking at and talking about 4K screens in the palm of your hand, octa-core processors and mobile SoC GPUs measuring performance in hundreds of GFLOPS, but at the end of the day the vast majority of consumers want something that does something to “wow” them.

As a result, device manufacturers and SoC vendors are shifting priorities for performance, features and how those are presented both the public and to the media. Take this week’s Qualcomm event in San Diego where a team of VPs, PR personnel and engineers walked me through the new Snapdragon 810 processor. Rather than showing slide after slide of comparative performance numbers to the competition, I was shown room after room of demos. Wi-Fi, LTE, 4K capture and playback, gaming capability, thermals, antennae modifications, etc. The goal is showcase the experience of the entire platform – something that Qualcomm has been providing for longer than just about anyone in this business, while educating consumers on the need for balance too.

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As a 15-year veteran of the hardware space my first reaction here couldn’t have been scripted any more precisely: a company that doesn’t show performance numbers has something to hide. But I was given time with a reference platform featuring the Snapdragon 810 processor in a tablet form-factor and the results show impressive increases over the 801 and 805 processors from the previous family. Rumors of the chips heat issues seem overblown, but that part will be hard to prove for sure until we get retail hardware in our hands to confirm.

Today’s story will outline the primary feature changes of the Snapdragon 810 SoC, though there was so much detail presented at the event with such a short window of time for writing that I definitely won’t be able to get to it all. I will follow up the gory specification details with performance results compared to a wide array of other tablets and smartphones to provide some context to where 810 stands in the market.

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Let’s dive in! Continue reading our preview of the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC!!

Free Intel Edison Meetup in Phoenix, AZ, February 19th, 2015

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | February 11, 2015 - 09:07 PM |
Tagged: Intel, edison, meetup

This is just a quick note for a small subset of our audience. If any of our developer-minded readers are in the Phoenix, Arizona region on February 19th, Intel will be hosting a meetup at UAT (the University of Advancing Technology). The processor vendor will perform a technical presentation about the Edison Internet-of-Things (IoT) developer kit. Shortly after the presentation, the group will move to Aunt Chilada's for a social event.

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The presentation will take place in the theatre (there is only one as far as I can tell) at 6:30pm. Admission is free and there will be 10 Intel Edison kits to be raffled. Food and beverages will be provided by Intel (at Aunt Chilada's restaurant).

Source: Intel