Intel's fastest 22-core Broadwell chip comes to new servers

Lenovo, HPE and Dell roll out new servers with Intel's new Xeon E5-2600 v4 chip

Every time Intel announces new Xeon chips, server makers waste no time in announcing new products to take advantage.

Lenovo, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Dell have announced faster servers with Intel's new Xeon E5-2600 v4 chips based on the Broadwell architecture. The chips have up to 22 cores and are significantly faster than the Haswell-based Xeon E5-2600 v3, which shipped last year.

Dell measured a 28 percent improvement in server application performance based on SAP benchmarks on the new chips, compared to performance with the Haswell server chips. Lenovo benchmarks showed a 44 percent CPU improvement. Benchmark results vary depending on the application.

The chips can be slotted into existing servers that have the Xeon E5-2600 v3 processor. Intel made the new chips socket compatible so companies wouldn't have to purchase new servers. Many servers announced on Thursday are incremental upgrades with the same sockets but the new chips.

Intel had to compromise on some chip improvements to ensure the new chips were compatible with current technologies in servers. Intel didn't make major Ethernet, storage or I/O upgrades. Upgrades to technologies like Intel's emerging OmniPath interconnect -- which link up a multitude of memory, processing, storage and networking units -- will be available with a separate add-on card.

HPE's new Proliant Gen9 servers stand out for "persistent memory," called NVDIMM, which merges DRAM and flash storage. HPE has put flash and DRAM chips on memory modules, which could help applications run faster.

Persistent memory has the speed of DRAM and the ability to retain data once a computer is turned off. Data usually moves between storage and memory when programs are executed, but having both on NVDIMM helps run programs faster.

HPE believes NVDIMM could benefit applications like databases, where in-memory processing is a fast-growing trend. For example, the SAP HANA database management system relies more on in-memory computing and less on storage.

HPE says NVDIMMs provide 24 times more IOPS (input-output per second), and six times more bandwidth than SSDs based on the high-speed NVMe (nonvolatile memory express), in which drives are slotted in PCI-Express 3.0 ports.

Dell tweaked some of its servers to fit more graphics processors, which could provide a performance boost for more visual and scientific tasks. It also implemented a new cooling system in its PowerEdge R730 server, starting at US$3,059, because the new 20- and 22-core Xeon chips could generate more heat. There are more mix-and-match combinations of memory and storage available in its Power R730XD server, starting at $3,899.

Lenovo refreshed its two-socket System x3650 M5, System x3550 M5, Flex x240 M5 and NextScale nx360 M5 servers. The servers are roughly 23 percent faster in Hadoop performance and up to 30 percent faster in data encryption. Intel has made on-chip improvements that could boost the speed of some security tasks by up to 70 percent. Pricing for those servers wasn't immediately available.

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