Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

A massive lineup

The amount and significance of the product and platform launches occurring today with the Intel Xeon Scalable family is staggering. Intel is launching more than 50 processors and 7 chipsets falling under the Xeon Scalable product brand, targeting data centers and enterprise customers in a wide range of markets and segments. From SMB users to “Super 7” data center clients, the new lineup of Xeon parts is likely to have an option targeting them.

All of this comes at an important point in time, with AMD fielding its new EPYC family of processors and platforms, for the first time in nearly a decade becoming competitive in the space. That decade of clear dominance in the data center has been good to Intel, giving it the ability to bring in profits and high margins without the direct fear of a strong competitor. Intel did not spend those 10 years flat footed though, and instead it has been developing complimentary technologies including new Ethernet controllers, ASICs, Omni-Path, FPGAs, solid state storage tech and much more.

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Our story today will give you an overview of the new processors and the changes that Intel’s latest Xeon architecture offers to business customers. The Skylake-SP core has some significant upgrades over the Broadwell design before it, but in other aspects the processors and platforms will be quite similar. What changes can you expect with the new Xeon family?

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Per-core performance has been improved with the updated Skylake-SP microarchitecture and a new cache memory hierarchy that we had a preview of with the Skylake-X consumer release last month. The memory and PCIe interfaces have been upgraded with more channels and more lanes, giving the platform more flexibility for expansion. Socket-level performance also goes up with higher core counts available and the improved UPI interface that makes socket to socket communication more efficient. AVX-512 doubles the peak FLOPS/clock on Skylake over Broadwell, beneficial for HPC and analytics workloads. Intel QuickAssist improves cryptography and compression performance to allow for faster connectivity implementation. Security and agility get an upgrade as well with Boot Guard, RunSure, and VMD for better NVMe storage management. While on the surface this is a simple upgrade, there is a lot that gets improved under the hood.

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We already had a good look at the new mesh architecture used for the inter-core component communication. This transition away from the ring bus that was in use since Nehalem gives Skylake-SP a couple of unique traits: slightly longer latencies but with more consistency and room for expansion to higher core counts.

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Intel has changed the naming scheme with the Xeon Scalable release, moving away from “E5/E7” and “v4” to a Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze nomenclature. The product differentiation remains much the same, with the Platinum processors offering the highest feature support including 8-sockets, highest core counts, highest memory speeds, connectivity options and more. To be clear: there are a lot of new processors and trying to create an easy to read table of features and clocks is nearly impossible. The highlights of the different families are:

  • Xeon Platinum (81xx)
    • Up to 28 cores
    • Up to 8 sockets
    • Up to 3 UPI links
    • 6-channel DDR4-2666
    • Up to 1.5TB of memory
    • 48 lanes of PCIe 3.0
    • AVX-512 with 2 FMA per core
  • Xeon Gold (61xx)
    • Up to 22 cores
    • Up to 4 sockets
    • Up to 3 UPI links
    • 6-channel DDR4-2666
    • AVX-512 with 2 FMA per core
  • Xeon Gold (51xx)
    • Up to 14 cores
    • Up to 2 sockets
    • 2 UPI links
    • 6-channel DDR4-2400
    • AVX-512 with 1 FMA per core
  • Xeon Silver (41xx)
    • Up to 12 cores
    • Up to 2 sockets
    • 2 UPI links
    • 6-channel DDR4-2400
    • AVX-512 with 1 FMA per core
  • Xeon Bronze (31xx)
    • Up to 8 cores
    • Up to 2 sockets
    • 2 UPI links
    • No Turbo Boost
    • 6-channel DDR4-2133
    • AVX-512 with 1 FMA per core

That’s…a lot. And it only gets worse when you start to look at the entire SKU lineup with clocks, Turbo Speeds, cache size differences, etc. It’s easy to see why the simplicity argument that AMD made with EPYC is so attractive to an overwhelmed IT department.

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Two sub-categories exist with the T or F suffix. The former indicates a 10-year life cycle (thermal specific) while the F is used to indicate units that integrate the Omni-Path fabric on package. M models can address 1.5TB of system memory. This diagram above, which you should click to see a larger view, shows the scope of the Xeon Scalable launch in a single slide. This release offers buyers flexibility but at the expense of complexity of configuration.

Continue reading about the new Intel Xeon Scalable Skylake-SP platform!

Western Digital Reworks Enterprise Lineup, Launches 8TB Gold Datacenter HDD

Subject: Storage | April 19, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: Xe, western digital, wdc, WD, se, RE, Media Cache, hgst, HelioSeal, gold, 8TB

Western Digital rolled out their Se / Re / Xe branding back in mid-2013. Since that time, a lot has changed in the rapidly evolving enterprise storage industry. SSDs are encroaching into more of the data center rack space out there, and the need for small capacity 10k and 15k RPM drives is dropping substantially in favor of more power efficient (in power and capacity per dollar), larger spinning disks.

With these winds of change comes today’s announcement from Western Digital:

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The new Gold lineup appears to be a merging of old and new product lines. The 6TB and below Re series are essentially being absorbed under the new Gold label, but 6TB will no longer be the top capacity offered to WD enterprise customers. A new 8TB capacity will be offered in the form of a HelioSeal drive. The 8TB model will share more parts with the HGST He8 than WD’s previously released 8TB Red, including HGST’s Media Cache architecture, which should yield a nice boost to sustained random write performance over drives lacking this technology.

The press release does not state this, but I suspect WD will be phasing out their Se and Xe product lines over the coming months in favor of Helium-filled drives of the 5400 (Red) and 7200 (Gold) RPM variety. Fewer lines to manage should help them tighten things up a bit and reduce costs even further over time.

We’ll be reviewing the new 8TB Gold just as soon as samples arrive for testing, so stay tuned!

Full press blast appears after the break.

Stuff your silicon, room temperature quantum transistors offer a golden future

Subject: General Tech | June 25, 2013 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: quantum dots, nanotubes, gold, boron nitride

The biggest hurdle in building a transistor that uses quantum effects to move electrons is that the transistor needs to be kept at incredibly low temperatures, a drawback common to anyone who has worked with superconductors.  Since the hoped for benefit of using quantum effect transistors is to avoid the heat generated in current silicon based models, it defeats the entire purpose of the project if you still need a custom cooling solution.  According to this article at The Register you might not need to worry about supercooling your transistors thanks to work being done by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the MTU group who have created a transistor made up of three nanometer gold quantum dots, insulated by boron nitride nanotubes which successfully transferred electrons at room temperature.  You will not be seeing this technology in consumer products any time soon and the boffins in the EUV lithographic business come up with a few new tricks in the mean time.

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"The world might still be 20 years from the end of Moore's Law, but the hunt for technologies to replace semiconductors is going on right now. A group from Michigan Technological University is offering one such alternative: a quantum tunnelling transistor that operates at room temperature."

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Source: The Register