Connect the Dots: Intel Xeon Scalable Processor Nails Data Center Requirements

Create: 07/17/2017 - 13:40
Intel scalable processors data centers

A big dot landed this week: the Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. Accompanied by all the right keywords, including cloud computing, 1.65x lower power, 2.2x higher performance, artificial intelligence, real-time analytics and virtualized infrastructure, the new line really is scalable, spanning almost 50 configurations.

For developers and solutions providers who can’t decide, or are facing short time-to-market schedules, Intel is providing Intel® Select Solutions. These are workload-optimized solutions that simplify and accelerate the process of selecting and deploying the hardware and software. They are developed and delivered by Intel and partners, and they target enterprises, cloud service providers and communication service providers.

The launch and the packaging options (Figure 1) are impressive. Intel is already a good option for any developers serious about keeping their clients, their jobs or their reputation.

The ecosystem of support makes it easier to find help. The clear processor roadmap and up to 10 years of processor support and NEBS compliance ensure longevity. When facing a client, it’s good to know a solution will be supported for the long haul, and, where necessary, across rugged telecom central-office environments that are now converging with the data center.

Intel Data Center scalable processors

Figure 1. Intel didn’t mince words when it announced the new line of processors, calling it, “The greatest set of data center and network processor advancements in a decade.” (Image source: Intel Corp.)

Those are general reasons to opt for an Intel processor that are often overlooked or go unsaid, as they are assumed. But for a developer, they make the difference between a long-term customer engagement, or zero customer engagement, in mission-critical applications.

Data center requirements rapidly changing, evolving

With this legacy, Intel made the announcement against a backdrop of rapidly evolving, urgent and demanding data center requirements that include all those mentioned above, along with storage, agility and total cost of ownership (TCO).

Interestingly, and in a sign of the times, Intel placed processing power and storage underneath AI, networking and virtualization. There’s more to a solution than sheer horsepower. Still, the new processors have up to 28 cores and provide up to a 2x FLOPs/clock improvement, with the Intel® AVX-512 instructions. These accelerate performance for workloads and applications such as scientific calculation, AI, deep learning, 3D modeling and analysis, and audio/video processing.

Along with AVX-512, a host of other enhancements come together in the processor, including Intel Omni-Path Architecture ports for improved compute capability, I/O flexibility and memory bandwidth, as well as storage that processes up to 5x more IOPS while reducing latency by 70 percent, and a Storage Performance Development Kit (SPDK) that makes data more accessible for advanced analytics.

The processor also includes the Intel® Mesh Architecture (Figure 2), Intel® QuickAssist, Intel® OptaneTM SSDs and Intel® Omni-Path Fabric, delivering up to 4.2x more virtual VMs, compared to a four-year-old system. This gives a 65 percent TCO improvement.

Intel Mesh architecture

Figure 2. The Intel® Mesh Architecture replaces the Ring Bus design for better data sharing and memory access across the 28 cores. (Image source: Intel Corp.)

Along with TCO, memory and horsepower, other key specifications and features include:

  • 2.2x higher deep learning training and inference compared to the previous generation, and 113x deep learning performance gains compared to a three-year-old, non-optimized server system when combined with software optimizations speeding delivery of AI-fueled services.
  • Up to 2.5x increased IPSec forwarding rate for key networking applications.
  • 3.1x performance improvement generation-over-generation in cryptography performance.
  • A new core microarchitecture, new on-die interconnects and memory controllers

In total, Intel claims 58 world records with the new processor lineup, “…and counting.”

The key takeaway is that Intel’s knowledge and experience of the application space fed the decision-making that went into the architecting of the ultra-scalable, finely tuned hardware. Combined with its hardware expertise, ecosystem and ability to promise long-term support, that makes the Intel Xeon Scalable processor a good bet.

As the IoT evolves, applications diversify, and requirements only get more demanding, the underlying bedrock of good reliable hardware will form a port of calm reassurance for solution providers navigating a really big storm. 

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Patrick Mannion
Patrick Mannion is an independent writer and content consultant who has been working in, studying, and writing about engineering and technology for over 25 years.

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