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Inside Intel's Xeon E5-2600 V3: Huge Performance Leaps

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Today Intel released the highly anticipated Xeon E5-2600 V3 family. With this generation, Intel has taken a significant leap forward in terms of performance. The new platform, codenamed "Grantley" combines new Xeon processors and focuses on integrating new memory, networking and storage technologies. With this platform, Intel will trigger a new technology refresh in the industry as organizations look to attain higher levels of performance and consolidation for today's virtualized workflows.

One of the most amazing things about today's announcement is that Intel is making these gains without any significant competition in the market segment. AMD last released its competitive Opteron 6300 and 4300 series processors in late 2012, which at this point are one or more generations behind Intel.Despite this lack of direct competition, the performance gains we have seen from the new series are astounding. Read: Intel Xeon E5-2600 V3 Review: Haswell-EP Redefines Fast

Key Intel Xeon E5-2600 V3 Features

There are a number of significant upgrades to the Intel Xeon E5-2600 V3 family, the C610 (Wellsburg) platform controller hub, and supporting technology. Some of the key features include:

  • 22+ SKUs from 4 to 18 cores;
  • Base clock speeds ranging from 1.6GHz to 3.5GHz;
  • 2.5MB/core of last level cache (this is configurable by SKU to make more cache available if cores are disabled);
  • DDR4 registered DIMM support;
  • Dual QPI with speeds from 6.4GHz to 9.6GHz;
  • Springville (1GbE) and Fortville (40GbE) LAN;
  • 10x SATA 3 ports.

Grantley Platform Overview

Intel provided us with an excellent overview of its newest generation platform summarizing some of the key features on this slide:

As you can see, Intel is not just launching processors today. It is launching a keystone component of an overall data center strategy designed to address today's enterprise and cloud IT trends.

Xeon E5-2600 V3 Processors

There are 22 general purpose (e.g. non-customer specific or communications specific) SKUs launched with the Intel Xeon E5-2600 V3 series. These are broken up into roughly six segments: Basic, Standard, Advanced, High Core Count, Frequency Optimized, Workstation and Low Power.

The Basic segment is represented by two processors that do not have features like Turbo boost and Hyper-Threading. These are the extremely low cost 6 core processors that are commonly used to power storage appliances where CPU power is not required. DDR4 speeds in this segment are limited to 1600MHz. TDP of these processors is similar to desktop processors at 85w.

The Standard segment has three processors with both Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading as well as DDR4 1866 speeds. The Standard segment is often used for bare metal web servers and similar applications as the lineup has 6-8 cores and the features to power many applications at a lower cost. TDPs in this segment range from 85w to 90w which is very easy to cool in rackmount enclosures.

The Advanced segment has five processors ranging from 10 to 12 cores and 2.3GHz to 2.6GHz clock speeds. DDR4 speeds are up to the full DDR4-2133 offered by the platform. The Advanced segment is extremely popular in applications, such as with cloud providers, as they balance cost with the ability to consolidate a lot of virtualized workloads onto a single platform. TDPs range from 105w to 135w which is at the upper end of what is easy to cool in a 1U or multiple node/U enclosure.

Moving to some of the more specialized segments, the Low Power segment has two processors with either 8 or 12 cores and either DDR4-1866 or DDR4-2133 memory speeds. The main differentiator here is that the processors operate at 55-65w TDP. The Intel Xeon E5-2650L V3 is a 12 core part that runs at 1.8GHz, but has a TDP of only 65w. The next lowest TDP on a 12 core V3 processor is the Xeon E5-2670 V3 at 120w and with only a 500MHz higher nominal clock speed. This segment is popular in density optimized segments and generally carries a price premium for power efficiency.

There is a single workstation processor in the V3 line-up. The Intel Xeon E5-2687W V3 has 10 cores and a nominal clock speed of 3.1GHz. The processor carries a 160w TDP which is very difficult to cool in 1U chassis. Instead, the E5-2687W processor line is meant for 4U and larger workstation towers where more substantial cooling solutions can be used.

The four Frequency Optimized processors have 4-8 cores but clock speeds from 3.0 to 3.5GHz. These are the processors often used for database servers where licensing is on a per-core basis. TDPs of 105-135w are high due to the clock speeds attained. These are processors where buyers are willing to pay a premium to do more work with less cores because the per-core software licensing costs are extremely high.

Finally, Intel is producing a segment optimized for High Core Counts. This segment has 14-18 core processors with 35 or 45MB of last level cache. With the higher number of cores, clock speeds range between 2.0GHz to 2.6Ghz. Intel stated that there are (at least) three different dies used to produce all of the different Haswell-EP variations and the processors in this segment utilize the largest die. TDP of 120w to 145w mean that these are higher-power servers, but they are also going to be used to consolidate even more workloads onto fewer nodes.

Xeon E5-2600 V3 Networking

The networking piece of today's announcement is perhaps equally exciting. Intel announced its Fortville networking adapters. The three models offer either dual 40GbE ports, a single 40GbE port or dual 10GbE ports.

Perhaps the most exciting part about the announcement is that Fortville has a TDP of 7w and a typical power consumption figure of 3.6w with dual 40GbE connections active.

Intel is releasing Fortville to take advantage of converged infrastructures with higher consolidation of compute, storage and networking. Each dual 40GbE adapter can also be split into 4x 10GbE connections. As a result, a single Fortville based PCIe network card can connect to 8x 10GbE devices. Along with this, Intel offered previews of its QuickAssist and network virtualization offloads technologies which will help keep data moving quickly in software defined networking scenarios.

Xeon E5-2600 V3 Memory

In terms of memory, the big story with Grantley is the transition to DDR4. DDR4 uses lower power than DDR3 and DDR3L (low power) versions. It also is able to attain higher transfer rates. With processors such as the Intel Xeon E5-2699 V3, Intel needs to keep these large processors fed with ample memory bandwidth.

The other significant feature of the Grantley DDR4 transition is that the new platform can run at higher speeds with additional DIMMs per channel. As more DIMMs are populated on the quad channel memory controller of Intel’s Xeon E5 series, speed typically falls due to the load on the memory controller. With DDR4, the fall-off is less steep than with DDR3. With more cores per processor, there will be a push to use even more RAM in each platform yielding 3 DIMM per channel configurations where this DDR4 feature helps.

Xeon E5-2600 V3 Storage

On the storage side, Intel is bifurcating its approach into two main fronts. First, there are now 10x SATA 3 ports. In the previous versions of the C600 PCH there were only two SATA 3 ports and up to 8x 3.0gbps ports (SAS or SATA.)

The other effort Intel is pushing is the use of PCIe lanes as flash storage connection points. Intel has released its series of PCIe based NVMe storage cards, such as the Intel DC3700, which offer awesome performance compared to their SATA counterparts.

For an in-depth look at the Intel Xeon E5-2600 V3 performance relative to previous generations of Xeon E5 processors, see the review on Tom's Hardware here.


Images courtesy of Intel