Intel's Dunnington comes in fours and sixes

Chip giant launches three iterations of industry's first six-core 45-nanometer processors targeted at high-end server market. Another four versions are quad-core.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

Intel has launched its latest Xeon 7000 series processors, based on 45-nanometer technology, for the multi-processor server market.

Codenamed Dunnington, the Xeon 7400 family of processors come in four-core and six-core versions, Ho Soo Pine, Intel's Asia-Pacific enterprise platforms manager, told ZDNet Asia in an interview Monday. The launch of Dunnington, she added, completes the Xeon family's transition to the 45nm high-k process technology, which began in November 2007.

The chip giant will be offering seven flavors or stock keeping units (SKUs) at launch--three are six-core versions while the remaining four are quad-core. The cores can access up to 16MB of shared L3 cache, and offer frequencies of up to 2.66GHz at 130 watts. There are two low-power versions that bring power levels down to 50 watts for the quad-core, and 65 watts for the six-core.

Dunnington processors, which tap on the Caneland platform, is expected to deliver performance per watt of 1.5 times over the 65nm Xeon 7300 series codenamed Tigerton, said Ho. Based on the vConsolidate industry benchmark, the six-core Xeon E7460 is also capable of delivering more than 50-percent improvement in virtualization performance per watt, over the quad-core Xeon X7350.

The 7400 series, she noted, also has the distinction of powering the first x86 multi-processor server to break the 1 million transactions per minute ceiling (tpmC). This was achieved on an IBM 8-socket System x based on the TPC-C benchmark. Four-socket systems from vendors including Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems also set records based on key enterprise-related benchmarks.

Eddie Toh, Intel's regional platform marketing manager for Asia-Pacific server platforms group, said there will be "a fairly quick ramp" for Dunnington due to socket compatibility with the 7300 series and the use of the existing Caneland platform.

In addition, the growing trend of virtualization also paves the way for faster adoption of the new family of processors, touted as the "best virtualization platform", he added. The Xeon 7400 series incorporates Intel's VT (Virtualization Technology) FlexMigration, which allows the systems to be included into an existing server pool for virtualization.

According to Intel, processors in quantities of 1,000 are priced between US$856 and US$2,729. Over 50 manufacturer partners are expected to announce Dunnington-based products over the next few months. The products include four-socket rack and blade servers from vendors including Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Sun Microsystems and Unisys; as well as servers that scale up to 16 sockets from IBM, NEC and Unisys.

Intel rival AMD, which announced a revision to its server roadmap in May, is "still on track" to release its six-core processor codenamed Istanbul in the second half of 2009, an AMD spokesperson confirmed in an e-mail to ZDNet Asia Monday.

She added: "We believe the introduction of Istanbul next year will be more relevant to the market demand."

AMD is targeting to roll out its first 45nm processors beginning with the quad-core Shanghai--the shrunk-down version of Barcelona--during the fourth quarter of this year.

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