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Intel launches single socket Haswell Xeon E3 processors

Touts GPU performance for cloud rendering
Tue Jun 04 2013, 07:00
An Intel logo on a piece of equipment

CHIPMAKER Intel has announced its first Haswell based Xeon E3-1200v3 just days after the firm brought the microarchitecture to consumer chips.

Intel is positioning its Haswell microarchitecture as designed primarily for laptops in the consumer market but the firm isn't waiting around to introduce the technology into its Xeon server processors. Intel has announced its Haswell based single socket Xeon E3 1200v3 series processors, ranging from the dual-core E3-1220LV3 with a TDP of 13W to the quad-core E3-1285V3 that consumes 84W.

While Intel's debut of Haswell in its Xeon server and workstation range is interesting. Perhaps to some people's surprise, the firm is pitching its latest range of single-socket chips at the cloud rendering market. Over the past year, both AMD and Nvidia have targeted this market through their Radeon Sky and Grid GPGPU accelerator cards, respectively.

Now Intel is pitching its Haswell Xeons, complete with its much revamped integrated graphics core, as a way for content providers, online gaming services and virtual desktop operations to bypass the use of accelerators and stick with single chip, high density servers. The firm claimed that on a per server basis, its Xeon E3-1285L chip - a 65W variant of the range topping E3-1285V3 chip with a GPU clocked at 350MHz and can be boosted up to 1.25GHz - is more efficient at video transcoding than servers that use Nvidia's Geforce GTX 680 graphics card.

Intel's claim primarily boils down to the ability for the 65W chip to power more servers within the power budget of the whole rack. Although some will call Intel's claim largely a matter of semantics, plus the fact that the Geforce GTX 680 is a consumer card and not one intended for servers, the chipmaker does have a valid point in that CPUs will allow firms to make greater use of limited power budgets.

Aside from Intel's claims of transcoding efficiency against accelerator cards, the firm has a bigger problem, as AMD has announced its first low-power Opteron X series accelerated processor unit (APU), which is already shipping to OEMs. AMD's Opteron X2150, a quad-core CPU with a Radeon HD 8000 series GPU, might not have as much CPU power as the Xeon E3-1200v3, but given that the Opteron X2150 runs at just 11W TDP, its core and GPU density could be significantly higher than those of Intel's latest offering.

Intel's decision to focus on GPU bound tasks could be due to benchmarks showing that for general compute workloads Haswell is giving around a 10 percent boost in performance over Ivy Bridge Xeon parts. While this figure could go up with server related workloads, even a 15 percent jump in CPU performance might not be enough to tempt firms to jump, especially since Haswell based Xeon E3 chips are not drop-in parts for Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge based Xeon servers.

Nevertheless, Intel's launch of its first Haswell-based Xeon processors is an impressive feat for the firm, coming just days after its launch of consumer parts that typically undergo less stringent qualification and testing from OEMs. Attention will now turn to Intel's upcoming launch of Ivy Bridge based Xeon E5 chips, which are expected in the third quarter for the high volume two socket server market. µ


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