Intel's latest server chips add more cores and more memory for demanding workloads
Intel has introduced the Xeon E7 v4 family of processors, the latest generation of its Xeon chips aimed at the most demanding mission-critical workloads, including databases, virtual machines and enterprise applications.
With an eye on current trends in the IT industry, the firm is putting the emphasis on analytics with this launch, claiming that the E7 v4 family offers greater performance and more reliability for crunching data.
Available immediately in systems from enterprise vendors including HPE, Dell, Lenovo, SGI and Fujitsu, the updated Xeon E7 family comprises the E7-8800 v4 chips aimed at eight-socket servers and the E7-4800 v4 chips aimed at four-socket servers.
Formerly known as Broadwell EX, the new chips deliver the usual boost in performance over the previous generation, especially with an increase in the number of maximum cores from 18 to 24, and a doubling of the maximum supported memory to support up to 24TB per system.
This latter capability is to enable new systems based on the Xeon E7 family to meet the growing demands of enterprise applications such as in-memory databases and analytics involving large datasets. In fact, the Xeon E7 chips show a doubling of performance for processing analytic queries, according to Intel, as measured by TPC-H benchmark results.
The emphasis on analytics is because this area is becoming a ubiquitous part of almost every business application, according to Nidhi Chappell, product line manager at Intel's Data Centre Group.
"It is fair to say that analytics is pretty ubiquitous. There has a been a lot of research that has shown that companies that use advanced analytics tend to have more data-driven decisions, are able to make better insights and generally enjoy better competitive advantages," she said.
However, there are barriers to wider adoption of analytics, according to Intel, including that the software stacks to deliver a solution are complicated and call for specialised skills. It can be hard to identify the right data to analyse, and it can be difficult to get actionable insights at the end of the process.
The firm is trying to address these with the Trusted Analytics Platform (TAP) initiative, which is described as an open source effort aimed at providing the tools and services with which IT departments, data scientists and application developers can collaborate to link big data with applications.
As well as improved performance, Intel said that TAP has enhanced reliability for mission-critical applications, adding new capabilities to its Run Sure technology that includes an updated version of Intel's Machine Check Architecture Recovery mechanism and improvements to virtual machine handling such as lower latency when entering and exiting virtual machines.
Intel also claimed performance gains in the Xeon E7 v4 family against IBM's Power8 processors, which suggests that Intel now sees the Power architecture as its closest rival in the data centre market.
Intel claimed that its top-end E7-8890 v4 chip has 1.4x the performance of Power8, with half the operational costs for an eight-socket system, and up to 10 times the performance per dollar.
The claims are notable in that IBM has said previously that Power chips offer much better performance per dollar than x86 chips, partly by being able to handle more threads per core.
As with the previous generation of Xeon E7 chips, enterprise vendors can combine the processors with node controller hardware to scale beyond eight sockets and up to 64 sockets.