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Intel Rolls Out Powerful Xeon E7 v3 Chips

Intel on Tuesday announced the availability of the Xeon E7 v3 processor family for scale-out data center operations and big data analytics solutions that are increasingly transforming how people do business.

Xeon E7 v3 chips boast up to 18 dual-threaded cores and up to 45MB of L3 cache, helping these processors deliver a 40 percent performance boost over the preceding generation of Xeon E7 v2 parts, according to Intel.

These are the powerful Xeon server chips which Intel is pitting against the shrinking number of RISC-based data center chips like IBM's POWER8 multiprocessors. Systems using chips based on the x86 architecture like Intel's Xeon products now account for around 95 percent of server solutions, said Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of the Data Center Group at Intel.

The Xeon E7 v3 takes raw x86 performance to a new level in terms of competing with the POWER architecture and other RISC-based server chips. In the past, Intel has turned to its non-x86 Itanium products to battle for a share of the market for the most souped-up processors in the world, but now the company has an x86 chip that bests POWER and SPARC in 20 benchmarks for scale-up systems, according to Bryant.

Intel Xeon E7 v3 Package/Credit: Intel

"The next-generation Intel Xeon E7-8800/4800 v3 product families demonstrate leadership performance and scalability to handle any workload [in] systems with up to 32 sockets available and have industry-leading 1.5TB capability per socket, breaking several benchmark records that represent business intelligence analytics, business processing (wholesale/retail supply chain, enterprise resource planning, etc.) and infrastructure consolidation," Intel said.

The Xeon E7 v3 family "delivers up to 10x greater performance per dollar" and provides up to an 85 percent lower total cost of ownership over comparable RISC-based systems, the company said.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy, said Intel's latest Xeon processors are "closing the gap" with the RISC-based parts made by IBM and Oracle for scale-up systems.

"If you want the absolutely highest performance on SAP, you would look to IBM, but it comes with some caveats," Moorhead said. "The big difference comes in performance per dollar, where Intel-based systems from HP, Dell, or Lenovo could perform better by 5-10x versus an IBM Power-based system."

Made for Big Data Intel is positioning its new Xeon E7 v3 chips as the go-to products for big data analytics solutions. At Tuesday's event in San Francisco, the chip giant shared the stage with Cloudera, which develops Xeon-powered, Hadoop-based data analytics solutions for customers ranging from eHarmony and MasterCard to health care information technology specialist Cerner.

For a payment card company like MasterCard, security of the data it manages is paramount, noted Cloudera CEO Tom Reilly. The upshot is that Intel has beefed up on-chip encryption capabilities with the Xeon E7 v3 line, while also enhancing its Intel Run Sure Technology and introducing Intel Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX), a better method of managing the way threaded applications access memory.

"In the digital services economy, success or failure can depend on how quickly businesses act on insight from vast stores of data," Bryant said. "The Intel Xeon processor E7 v3 family is the engine for accelerating business intelligence through real-time analytics, enabling businesses to improve customer satisfaction through more personalized products and services, generate new revenue streams and enhance operational efficiency."

For example, Intel data center marketing general manager Lisa Spelman cited one major utility company that is saving millions of dollars annually by pinging its fleet of smart meters every 15 minutes to better allocate energy production, a process only made possible with advanced data analytics algorithms running on powerful, reliable servers.

That same utility is also using a big data solution to predict the failure rates of its transformers and can now do so with 96 percent accuracy, Spelman said.

Intel has released a new price list (below) with specs for its 12 new 22-nanometer Xeon E7 v3 processors, ranging from the $1,223 it's charging for the 8-core, 2.00GHz Xeon E7 4809 v3 to the $7,174 it'll cost you to acquire the 18-core, 2.50GHz Xeon E7-8890 v3. Power draws in the product family range from 115W to 165W, CPU core counts go from quads all the way to 18, and all of the new Xeon E7 v3 parts support DDR3 and DDR4 memory—up to 12TB in 8-socket systems.

Intel Xeon E7 v3 Price List/Credit: Intel

Seventeen server manufacturers are on board with Xeon E7 v3 systems set to begin shipping later this year, according to Intel. These are Bull, Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, Huawei, Inspur, Lenovo, NEC, Oracle, PowerLeader, Quanta, SGI, Sugon, Supermicro, and ZTE.

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