Intel's Haswell coming to Xeon E5 chips this quarter

The Xeon E5 chips code-named Grantley are the next generation of Intel's biggest-selling class of server chips

Intel has started shipping Xeon E5 chips based on the Haswell microarchitecture to server makers, and the chip will be in servers this quarter.

The Xeon E5 chips typically go into two-socket and four-socket servers and are the company's biggest-selling server products. The new chips, code-named Grantley, will succeed former chips code-named Romley, which are based on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture.

Lenovo has already announced plans to launch a new line of servers based on Grantley this quarter. Server makers including Hewlett-Packard and Dell also use Intel's server chips and could announce products.

"We think ... it's going to be a very powerful product," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said during an earnings call on Tuesday.

The Grantley chips have already started shipping to cloud and high-performance computing customers who build their own computing gear, Krzanich said. Most chips ship out of the factory to server makers, who test the chips, design servers and then make products commercially available.

Xeon E5 accounts for roughly 75 percent of Intel server chip shipments, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

The predecessor Romley chips are still out there, but Grantley will step in as customers look to upgrade servers. Intel's server business is booming, but Krzanich was restrained when asked about expectations for the server chip.

The data-center volumes are "lumpy," Krzanich said, adding that Xeon E5 order sizes could vary as companies look to upgrade data centers.

"They tend to come in big pieces," Krzanich said.

However, in the long term, the chip will continue to drive Intel's data-center business, Krzanich said.

The Grantley chip will have DDR4 memory controllers, and memory DIMMs are expected to be available from Micron, Kingston and others this quarter. The chip will have more processing cores than did its predecessors.

Grantley could face competition from Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron 4000 and 6000 x86 server chips. But Intel has close to a 95 percent market share, and in the Xeon E5 segment it's even higher, McCarron said.

"There's really not a lot of competition for that particular server product," McCarron said.

AMD is betting its server future on Arm processors, which could emerge as competition to Intel's x86 server chips.

Intel has also said it will be willing to customize chips with specific features. The bulk of Grantley shipments won't be custom chips, McCarron said.

The chip maker also sells Xeon E3 chips for single-socket servers and E7 chips for servers with four sockets or more.

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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