Intel claims new Xeon is 'revolutionary'

April 1, 2009 // 12:33 p.m.

Tags: #amd #intel #l5506 #l5520 #pentium-pro #processor #server #w5580 #xeon #xeon-x5500

Intel's latest server-side processor, the Xeon 5500 chip, seems to be getting a lot of love: companies as diverse as Cray, HP, and Dell have all announced products based around what Intel is calling the most revolutionary server processor since the Pentium Pro.

As reported over on BetaNews, Intel has stated that over 70 companies will be shortly announcing products designed around the Xeon 5500 processor – with AMAX, Cray, HP, and Dell chosen as headliners, along with clients such as CERN, the European Space Agency, and Capgemini.

Based around the Nehalem processor architecture, the 5500 is designed to improve the Xeon range's performance per watt characteristics, as well as providing a much-needed performance boost over older chips.

Patrick Gelsinger, Intel's senior vice president, claims that the new range will provide “the foundation for the next decade of innovation” with “groundbreaking advances in performance, virtualisation and workload management, which will create opportunities to solve the world's most complex challenges and push the limits of science and technology.

Marketing spiel aside, the range of chips is pretty impressive: while the top-end model, the W5580 with 8MB of cache and four cores running at 3.2GHz, draws a somewhat toasty 130W, the low-power models – the 2.26GHz quad-core L5520 with 8MB of cache and its baby brother the 2.13GHz quad-core L5506 with 4MB of cache – come in at a respectable 60W.

Intel hopes that this pair of surprisingly low powered chips will help server manufacturers cram increasingly dense servers – including blades – into ever more efficient data centres. We had a look at a pair of the flagship Xeon W5580 processors the other day and they won bit-tech's coveted Excellence award.

The new range includes the point-to-point system dubbed Quick Path Interconnect – designed to compete with AMD's rival HyperTransport – running at between 4.8GT/s (gigatransfers per second) and 6.4GT/s depending on the model, and improved support for increasingly popular virtualisation technology which builds on the company's existing Intel VT system.

Obviously these improvements come at a cost, and it's high enough to keep enthusiasts at bay for now: while the base model, a dual-core 1.86GHz with 4MB of cache, is going for $188 (£130) – but the W5580 top-end model has an asking price of a whopping $1600 (£1,120). This places it well out of the reach of most consumers, who will have to make do with the desktop-oriented i7 3.2GHz for a more reasonable ~£800.

Any server builders here itching to get their hands on a W5580 or six, or are you salivating over the thought of a renderfarm built from the low-power L5520? Interested to see what AMD's response will be to this latest assault on the lucrative server market? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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