Intel brings Haswell to servers with Xeon E3 chip

Intel also announces Xeon E5 and E7 chips, which are based on Ivy Bridge

Intel announced new server chips on Tuesday, including the latest Xeon E3, which is the first server processor based on the company's latest Haswell microarchitecture.

Intel's Xeon E3 chips are targeted at low-end servers and microservers, which are an emerging category of dense servers largely aimed at Web hosting and cloud implementations. Microservers usually have lower-power processors and are designed to handle large volumes of lightweight web or cloud transactions, like search queries and social networking page renderings.

The E3 chips will have up to four cores and receive a performance and power-efficiency boost with Haswell. Most of Intel's chips are currently based on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, and Haswell will be the basis for the upcoming fourth-generation Core processors, which will be in laptop and desktops this quarter.

Intel also announced the faster Xeon E5 and E7 chips, which are based on Ivy Bridge. The E5 chip is for mid-range servers and will come with up to eight cores, while the E7 chip is targeted at high-end servers and will have up to 10 CPU cores.

The chips will be announced at the Intel Developer Forum, which is being held in Beijing on April 10 and 11. The Xeon E5 and E7 chips will be upgraded to Haswell only next year.

The E3 chip, which will support up to 32GB of memory, is targeted at single-socket servers. The chip draws as little as 13 watts of power, which is 4 watts less than its Ivy Bridge predecessor released last year. The company declined to comment on when the E3 chip would ship in servers.

The Xeon E3 will have an integrated graphics processor and other video encoding and decoding features, which will be good for cloud-based video workloads, said Lisa Graff, vice president and general manager of marketing at Intel's Datacenter and Connected Systems Group.

An interesting feature in Haswell is the ability to speed up database transactions through chip-level Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX) features. Intel did not say whether the E3 chips would support TSX features, which could mean the low-power processors could be extended to database workloads.

The Xeon E5 is for mid-range servers with up to four sockets. The chip succeeds the older Xeon E5 chip code-named Romley, which has been Intel's highest-selling server processor to date.

The E5 chip will draw between 60 and 130 watts, and servers with E5 can carry up to 768GB of memory. The chip will become available in the third quarter.

Due in the fourth quarter is the Xeon E7 chip, which will be Intel's highest performing server chip. The chip is designed for servers with up to eight sockets and 4TB of memory.

"We've tripled the memory capacity on this chip," Graff said.

Companies will be able to put the "entire database in memory," Graff said. Intel is working with SAP for HANA in-memory database implementations.

The Xeon E7 chip includes 30MB of L3 cache and draws up to 130 watts of power.

Intel earlier this week announced an Atom server chip code-named Avoton, which will succeed the current Atom S1200 chip code-named Centerton. It will be based on the Silvermont microarchitecture, which is considered the first major Atom architecture redesign since 2008. Avoton is expected to be used later this year in HP's Moonshot servers, which launched this week.

All the chips will be made using the 22-nanometer process, which will bring power-efficiency and performance benefits to the chips.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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