New servers feature Intel's 10-core Xeon E7 processors

Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Cray announce new servers with Intel's new 10-core E7 family of chips

Top manufacturers including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Cray have announced new high-end servers sporting Intel's 10-core Xeon E7 series of chips, which were announced on Tuesday.

The new servers are designed to run high-end enterprise applications including databases, as well as scientific applications, the companies said. The servers are faster, provide up to double the memory capacity and include improved RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability) features for high server availability.

Intel said the Xeon E7 chips are up to 40 per cent faster than their predecessors, the Xeon 7500 chips, which were eight-core processors launched last year. With 10 cores, the E7 chips include more cores than any other Intel processor. The E7 chips will also come in six- and eight-core variants, and operate at clock speeds between 1.73GHz and 2.4GHz.

The addition of more cores to E7 chips will bring more processing power to servers, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. E7 chips also bring scalability to servers with the ability to include more memory, which can total 2TB in servers.

Intel has also adopted some RAS and error-correction features that chip makers like IBM throw into high-end chips, Brookwood said. For example, Intel is providing simultaneous self-correction of up to two memory (DRAM) errors. These features are typically found on Itanium or RISC (reduced instruction set computing) chips, and are important for mission-critical servers.

"[Intel] wants to be able to compete at that feature and availability level," Brookwood said.

Dell announced three PowerEdge servers with Xeon E7 chips, which deliver up to a 49 per cent improvement in performance-per-watt compared to their predecessor, said Brian Payne, executive director of Dell's PowerEdge server line.

Dell's four-socket PowerEdge R910 4U rack server, when configured with a 10-core Intel Xeon E7-4780 CPU running at 2.4GHz, can provide up to 38 per cent improvement in Oracle application server and database performance over a previous-generation, eight-core Intel Xeon X7560 processor running at 2.26GHz, the company claimed.

The entry-level price for a PowerEdge R910 server is around US$9,000, a Dell spokesman said.

Dell also announced that E7 chips would be offered with the PowerEdge M910 blade and PowerEdge R810 rack servers.

HP updated four servers in its ProLiant G7 line to include Xeon E7 chips. The ProLiant BL680c and ProLiant DL580 will include the Xeon E7-4800 family of chips, while the ProLiant BL620c and ProLiant DL980 servers will be based on the Intel Xeon E7-2800 and E7-4800 series processors.

The servers deliver up to a 40 per cent increase in performance compared to their predecessors, the company said. HP also highlighted new technologies such as the scalable memory buffer that expands memory to improve application performance. Separate, buffered memory chips can temporarily store data alongside the main memory, which could result in faster execution of in-memory applications. The feature could net power savings of up to 155 watts per 256GB of memory, HP said.

The new servers will be available in May 2011, except for the DL980, which will be available in June. Prices for the servers will start at $6,000, the company said.

IBM announced new System x3850 X5, x3690 X5, and BladeCenter HX5 servers, which provide up to 40 per cent CPU performance improvement from the previous processor generation, the company said. An IBM spokesman said further information and pricing on the new servers would be released at a later date.

Cray announced that its CX1000-S would now include E7 processors. The configuration will include up to 128 cores and is designed to run high-performance computing applications, the company said. The server is priced under $100,000.

The E7 chips in the future will be pitted against the upcoming 16-core server chips code-named Interlagos from Advanced Micro Devices, Insight 64's Brookwood said. The Interlagos chips, based on the new Bulldozer architecture, will offer faster performance and energy saving features. AMD has said that the Interlagos chips will ship in the third quarter.

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