Intel Xeon chips rebranded to sound like credit cards

You will soon be able to buy Xeon Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze

After about half a decade, Intel is wiping the confusing E5 and E7 monikers off its Xeon chips and rebranding them to bring more clarity about the performance and features that come with the processors.

Xeon chips are used in servers and workstations like Mac Pro. Xeon chips being released mid-year will be broken down into Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze processors.

The naming scheme -- derived from metals -- is a mix of Olympic medals and branding of credit cards from companies like Delta. A person familiar with Intel's plans earlier said the chips will likely be widely referred to as Xeon-P, Xeon-G, Xeon-S, and Xeon-B, with the P for Platinum, G for Gold, etc.

The more valuable the metal, the more performance you get with the chip. The Platinum chip is the fastest chip and will deliver the performance similar to that of the high-end E7 chips, an Intel spokesman said.

The Bronze processor is aimed at low-end servers and will deliver the performance similar to the E5.

The new branding will start with the server chips based on the enhanced Skylake architecture coming mid-year. Earlier this year, Intel released low-end E3 server and workstation chips based on the Kaby Lake architecture, and those chips will hang on to the old moniker.

With Xeon Platinum, you will also get "hardware-enhanced security," Intel said. The chipmaker is putting additional hardware layers on its Skylake chips to provide data security. That feature is valuable in fault-tolerant, high-uptime servers used in financial and retail organizations that run high volumes of transactions. These servers have ECC memory and RAS (reliability, availability, and serviceability) features.

The Xeon Gold tier of processors will add "enhanced performance, fast memory, more interconnect/accelerator engines, and advanced reliability." That would make Gold tier chips for applications like machine learning. Intel will hook up FPGAs and deep-learning chips from Nervana alongside the processors to carry out tasks like image recognition and natural language processing. Outside of servers, these chips could also go into car IT systems.

Intel is also introducing the high-bandwidth OmniPath interconnect -- so far only available with its Xeon Phi supercomputing chips -- with its Skylake chips. That feature could be available with Xeon Gold.

The Xeon Silver will provide "efficient performance at low power," while Xeon Bronze will be aimed at entry-level servers.

There are many new features that will be available on most Skylake server chips. One is AVX-512, a package of vector extensions to speed up high-performance computing.

Servers with the new chips also have as a feature called Intel Volume Management Device so SSDs like the super fast Optane DC P4800X and 3D NAND-based DC P4600 can be hot swapped.

Intel is reorganizing its business to focus more on data centers, especially with a stagnant PC market.Â

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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