Intel has taken the wraps off a new quad-core Xeon 5500 processor that the chipmaker is calling its most important server product launch since the Pentium Pro came to market in 1995.
"Simply put, the Xeon 5500 is a technological marvel -- the most spectacular processor that Intel has ever produced and that the industry has ever seen," said Intel Senior Vice President Pat Gelsinger.
More than 100 applications were released Monday that have been optimized for the new Xeon chip, which is based on Intel's Nehalem microarchitecture. "This is the most that Intel has ever had for a server launch," Gelsinger said.
The Xeon 5500 integrates QuickPath technology under which each processor core has its own integrated memory controller and high-speed interconnect for linking processors and other components, which speeds up applications. The new processor also integrates Intel's Turbo Boost technology, which enables all active processor cores to intelligently clock themselves up in increments as long as the CPU is operating below its maximum power, current and temperature specs.
"We can turbo up all the cores if there is thermal headroom; then, when a lighter workload is detected, shut off cores and turn up the remaining cores, with this done dynamically and detected in real time," Gelsinger said.
The new chip for servers and workstations also receives a big multitasking boost from hyperthreading technology capable of supporting up to 16 threads. Also on tap: a multi-level shared cache that reduces latency to frequently used data, together with Intel's 5520 chipset and related technologies.
"The full cadre of the technology I have been talking about have given power efficiency gains -- not just at the processor level but also at the platform level," Gelsinger said.
Gelsinger also said Intel has set 30 new server performance benchmark records using the Xeon 5500. "We've lapped every competitor, setting every record in two-socket and, in some cases, in four-socket servers," Gelsinger said. "Virtualization is a key tech for the data center" and some of "the largest performance improvements in the benchmarks we've seen are in the areas of virtualization."
Though many companies have been postponing IT projects or otherwise scaling back their IT expenditures, Gelsinger sees the current economic downturn as an opportunity. "Today IT budgets are being pressured to increase the focus on ROI," he said. "We see that there is a tremendous opportunity for them when upgrading to Xeon."
According to Gelsinger, Microsoft has been seeing 2x performance improvements in Business Intelligence (BI) workloads with the Xeon 5500 as well as 3x to 4x performance gains in some data-warehousing applications. "We believe that the Xeon 5500 is just the right technology to come along at one of the most challenging economic times in our history," Gelsinger said.
There are approximately 30 million Intel Architecture (IA) servers in the world today, of which 40 percent are single-core machines and another 40 percent are dual core, Gelsinger noted. Moving from a single-core server to the Xeon 5500, he said, will result in up to a 9x performance improvement, allowing IT departments to free up more of their constrained budgets for innovation.
Server vendors AIC, Dell, HP, NEC and Sun Microsystems announced Monday that they will be launching products based on the Xeon 5500 processor. Apple and Lenovo unveiled workstations earlier this month that are based on Intel's new chip.