CHIPMAKER Intel will take the wraps off its Intel Sandy Bridge ES Xeons later today, so here we look at the difference between the firm's ultra high-end Core i7-3960X and a pair of Xeon E5-2670 processors.
Intel's Xeon E5 chips will be marketed for both near-line servers typically used in cloud environments and high-end workstation for number crunching. However Intel's Core i7-3960X is also used as a single processor workstation chip with two of the cores fused off, the ability to use non-ECC RAM and in some cases significantly higher clock speed.
While even Intel now admits that clock speed isn't everything, there are workloads where high frequency processors are favoured over those with more cores running at lower frequencies. One of the use-cases both AMD and Intel provide is high frequency trading, but a better generalisation is any workload that is highly sensitive to latency.
Intel's Xeon E5 processors will be available in single processor workstations. In those setups the big differences are increased memory capacity and, in the case of some Xeon E5 models, two extra cores, for a total of eight. Both the Core i7-3960X and the Xeon E5s support Hyperthreading.
One should not underestimate the advantage that Intel's Xeon E5 has in accessing more RAM.
While raw processing power is vital in brute force number crunching, the ability to work with larger datasets makes simulations far more realistic and, given that the option of swapping data on disk is not worth contemplating, even with solid-state drives, RAM capacity could be the biggest selling point for Xeon E5 chips in single processor workstations.
The Xeon E5 2670 we tested has a TDP of 115W, the top end of Intel's Xeon E5 power usage range. Although the Core i7-3960X has a TDP of 130W, it is used in single processor configurations.
For the purpose of this comparison we will ignore the overclocking ability of the Core i7-3960X despite its unlocked multiplier, because we simply cannot say with any statistical accuracy whether the overclockability of one chip is representative of a batch.
The tests conducted were primarily to guage processor performance and see how large a step there is between a single processor Core i7-3960X setup and a dual-processor Xeon E5-2670 system.