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Intel Unveils First 14nm, Xeon D SoCs

Intel on Monday introduced its 14-nanometer Xeon D family of microserver processors, bringing System-on-a-Chip (SoC) capabilities to the company's Xeon line of datacenter products for the first time.

The first Xeon D products are the quad-core Xeon Processor D-1520, priced at $199, and the eight-core Xeon Processor D-1540, priced at $581. Both new SoCs are available today. More than 50 new systems using Xeon D chips are currently being designed by Intel OEM partners, with about three-quarters of those developing network, storage, and Internet of Things (IoT) systems.

Intel said Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Quanta Cloud Technology, Sugon, and Supermicro are among the companies designing microservers based on Xeon D.

The first Xeon D processors have industry-standard x86 cores and support two 10GbE Intel Ethernet ports, as well as supporting I/O such as PCIe, USB, SATA, and more, Intel said. The Xeon D-1520 and D-1540 support "up to 128GB of addressable memory" while only drawing 20 watts of power to operate, according to the company.

"The growth of connected devices and demand for more digital services has created new opportunities for information and communication technology," Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, said in a statement. "By bringing Intel Xeon processor performance to a low-power SoC, we're delivering the best of both worlds and enabling our customers to deliver exciting new services."

Intel's new lineup of 64-bit Xeon processors add a powerful, if costlier alternative for microservers to the company's own Atom chips, as well as to 64-bit ARM processors which are starting to trickle into the data center.

"Xeon D is a big step forward as it raises Intel's competitiveness in many different workloads. It performs better than Atom but is more integrated than classic Xeon. This definitely will give the ARM camp some headaches," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Charles King, principal analyst for Pund-IT, had a similar take and highlighted Intel's strategy in building what's ostensibly a data-center product that also plays well at the "edge of the network."

"Overall, I believe the new Xeon D processors mark significant step for both Intel and the larger IT industry. They qualify as a notable achievement for Intel by extending the company's well-established Xeon server solutions and its 14nm processes into the SoC space," King said. "As more and more intelligence moves toward the edge of the network, combining Xeon-class features with notable energy efficiency will benefit customers, including cloud and telecommunications service providers.

"For some time now, developments in the SoC space have mainly rotated around low energy consumption rather that compute performance, but with Xeon D, Intel is providing SoC customers the best of both those worlds. "

Xeon D is the latest product line built on Intel's leading-edge 14nm process technology, following on from the release of the first "Broadwell" chips earlier this year and 2014's debut of the new Core M processor family, which enables fanless laptop, tablet, and 2-in-1 designs like Apple's new super-slim-and-light MacBook with Retina display.

The new SoCs "deliver up to 3.4x faster performance per node and up to 1.7x better performance per watt when compared to the Intel Atom processor C2750," the chip maker said, adding that "[i]nitial products are optimized for hosters and cloud service providers for a variety of workloads such as dedicated Web hosting, memory caching, dynamic Web serving, and warm storage."

Future products in the Xeon D family built for storage and networking applications will "target usages such as entry SAN and NAS appliances, edge routers and wireless base stations, as well as industrial IoT devices," Intel said.

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