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Thursday | December 8, 2016
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Intel Xeon W5580 Cpus and S5520SC Motherboard

Intel Xeon W5580 Cpus and S5520SC Motherboard

Introduction

Over the last five years Intel have released some immensely powerful multiprocessor configurations, from the V8 platform (with X5365 cpus) which we reviewed a few years ago to the wallet crippling Skulltrail platform which we analysed in February of 2008. While a fully kitted out Skulltrail system still gives class leading CPU performance it was not without unusual and performance killing design decisions, such as the incorporation of fully buffered DDR2.

Intel has faced strong opposition in the x86 server and workstation markets from the Opteron range of systems. AMD’s decision to integrate a memory controller into its processors and to implement a narrow, high speed interconnection between the processors and I/O chips for example has meant it was always a high priority contender in this market. So while Intel’s formidable Core micro architecture has given them a lead in the majority of performance intensive tests, Xeons have been a little limited in several areas. The use of fully buffered DIMMs has meant they have had less than optimal power efficiency and the use of a front side bus and centralised memory controller means they certainly have been limited within scalability confines.

These limitations and restrictions are to be cast aside however by today’s introduction of new processors based on the chip code name Nehalem, a new CPU design that brings with it a revised system architecture that will be immediately familiar to enthusiasts versed in the Opteron. Hows this for a configuration? A single chip quad core processor with a small L2 cache allocated to each core, backed up by a large L3 cache shared by all the cores. Add in an integrated memory controller and a high speed, low latency socket interconnect and this is what we are presented with today. A formidable combination especially when combined with high performance DDR3 memory.

This is hardly breaking news as the I7 processors have been on sale for quite some time already, however the multi socket systems are what we are focusing on with today’s editorial. Their new multi CPU focused platform aptly titled Nehalem EP (Efficient Performance) is in our labs.

As this is Intel – the platform has benefitted from world-class semiconductor fabrication capabilities in the form of Intel’s 45nm High-k/metal gate technology, the exact same process used to produce Harpertown Xeons. At around 751 million transistors and a die area of around 263mm2, the Nehalem EP is a much larger chip. Harpertown is built around a pair of dual core chips, each of which has 410 million transistors in an area 107mm2).

My colleague Stuart has already looked at the I7 architecture before as it has been out in the single socket format for a while. Without treading all the same ground again I will concentrate today on the aspects most relevant to the server and workstation markets. I rarely make the launch dates for these reviews because I like to spend several weeks covering the platform as thoroughly as I can, so apologies if you have been waiting on this editorial.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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