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Intel launches Broadwell-based Xeons with up to 24 cores, 60MB L3 cache, 3D XPoint

Intel announced a new lineup of Broadwell-based, high-end Xeons today, the Broadwell-EX E7 v4 family. These new server processors offer up to 24 cores, 60MB of L3 cache, support for new RAS features, 3D XPoint (when available), and support for 3DS LRDIMMs. 3DS DIMMs used stacked DRAM to offer increased density in much the same way that 3D NAND flash improves density compared with conventional 2D planar NAND.

Actual clock rate performance improvements, however, are pretty limited. There may be some specific SKUs where Intel modestly bumped clock rates, but they aren’t the focus of this launch.

The chart above shows how the top-end 18-core and 10-core parts compare with each other across both families. While the E7 v4 Xeon includes support for up to 24 cores, we wanted to compare against the Haswell-based E7 v3 family to make an apples-to-apples determination.

At the 10-core mark, the Broadwell-EX is clocked identically to its Haswell predecessor, but offers 15MB more cache, double the memory (thanks to the use of 3DS DIMMs), and the additional RAS features mentioned above. The 18-core variant is also extremely similar to the Haswell-EX core, though there’s one significant difference — the newer 18-core chip is just 65% the price of the old one. While $4,672 isn’t exactly cheap for a processor, these are chips aimed at big iron production rather than the average consumer.

Cluster-on-Die

Intel has also expanded its Cluster on Die mode to support four-socket environments. CoD is a method of dividing each Broadwell-EX chip into a series of smaller, independent cores with localized data within the L3 cache. In the example above, the L3 in the yellow group is dedicated to those processors, while the green group’s L3 is dedicated to the needs of its cores. Previously Intel only supported this technology in two-socket systems, but Broadwell-EX gets the nod in four-sockets this time around. Intel is claiming that the E7 v4 systems can improve performance in industry standard workloads by up to 1.3x and save businesses significant amounts of energy, software licensing costs, and allow them to replace multiple previous systems with single Broadwell-EX boxes.

While many of the above claims are highly dependent on what kinds of workloads you’re running, the suggestion that Intel can use one Broadwell-EX box to replace up to three older servers does have some truth to it. Five years ago, the company’s EX processors were based on Westmere and focused on 6-10 cores.

The customers most likely to benefit from Broadwell-EX compared with Haswell-EX seem to be those that demand either enormous amounts of memory, or that want to divide the chip into sub-clusters in 4S systems. Both of these capabilities are new to Broadwell-EX, and its expanded RAS could make them useful to the highest-end enterprise servers.

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