Intel debuts Xeon E7 family

The Xeon-based range, formerly known as the Westmere-EX family, are Intel's main chip family aside from Itanium to target the high-end, high-power mission critical servers
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor on

Intel has announced the 32nm Xeon E7 family of chips for high-end servers, along with an entry-level Xeon E3 processor family.

The 18 chips, unveiled on Tuesday, were formerly code-named Westmere-EX and follow on from the Nehalem-EX range of processors. Additionally, Intel also announced 11 entry-level server processors for its new Xeon E3-1200 family, but provided few details.

We are targeting high-performance computing for specific workloads, database and online transaction processing, people who want to do scale up.
– Richard George, Intel

"The new Intel Xeon processor family delivers record-breaking performance with powerful new security, reliability and energy-efficiency enhancements," Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's datacentre group, said in a statement.

New additions

The 18 processors across the Xeon E7-2800, Xeon E7-4800 and Xeon E7-8800 families have a maximum core count of 10 — from eight on the Nehalem-EX processors. The largest L3 cache has increased from 24MB to 30MB and Intel says the processors have a 40-percent greater equivalent performance than the Intel Xeon 7500 series.

The family supports two (2800 series), four (4800) and eight-socket (8800) servers and are expandable up to 256 sockets. There are six core and 18MB L3 cache variants, and 17 of the 18 processors have hyperthreading. The 8837, which has a clock speed of 2.67GHz has eight cores and no hyperthreading.

The E7-2800 family ranges in clock speed between 1.73GHz and 2.4GHz, with a thermal design power rating (TDP) of between 105W and 130W. The E7-4800 ranges between 1.86GHz and 2.4GHz and has a TDP of 95W and 130W; the E7-8800 between 2.13GHz and 2.67GHz and a TDP of between 105W and 130W.

All the chips can vary clock frequency and supply voltages in a number of ways to reduce power usage on low demand applications.

Scaling up

Intel is also incorporating two security technologies from the Xeon 5600 series into the new families. Its Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (AES-NI) allow hardware to rapidly encrypt and decrypt data and Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) secures the operating system at the boot-up stage.

The processors are targeted at servers running key CPU-intensive applications in the enterprise datacentre or those administering large fleets of virtual machines, Intel said.

"We are targeting high-performance computing for specific workloads, database and online transaction processing, people who want to do scale up," Richard George, a marketing director for Intel told ZDNet UK on Tuesday. "A lot of that technology is scale up, we can scale the memory for 8TB in eight socket implementations, so we believe this is really dealing with the mission critical segment of businesses running big databases."

Processor families

Intel also announced 11 processors in the Xeon E3-1200 family, which it described as an "entry-level server processor" with AES-NI and TXT technologies. The E3 family have two or four cores, and their L3 cache varies between 3MB and 8MB. Clock speed is from 2.20GHz up to 3.50GHz, and TDP runs between the microserver-friendly E3-1220L with 20W and 95W for the top end E3-1280.

The E7 processor families range in price from $774 to $4,616 (£476 to £2,836) each when brought in batches of 1,000. The E3-1200 family ranges from $189 to $612. All are available now.

Itanium platform

As with the previous Nehalem generation, the new Xeon family sits in the same performance class as Intel's Itanium platform. When asked whether the x86 Xeon's could cannibalise the IA-64 Itanium, George said Intel has "two mission critical capable compute platforms, which are Itanium and E7, so they co-exist... rather than saying one sits above the other, you really want to look at what operating systems you're running".

Itanium has had its future questioned with Oracle dropping software development for the platform in March, claiming that Intel's management was mulling an abandonment of the platform.

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