‘Nehalem EX’ to add cores and features


A new Xeon designed for high-end servers will be available in the second half of the year bringing significant performance benefits and improved reliability for enterprise computing.

In a briefing today, the chip company announced that it is on track for production of the new Xeon MP' processor, codenamed Nehalem EX, by the end of the year. Intel said systems based on the chip will be ready in early 2010, and that it so far had commitment from eight different OEMs.

The Nehalem EX is aimed at servers of four sockets and above. As its name suggests, it is based on the same Nehalem' micro-architecture used in its recently introduced Xeon 5550 chip for two sockets systems, and will be a successor to the Core architecture based 7400 series, introduced last year.

The new Nehalem-EX will feature up to eight cores per socket, supporting up to 16 threads using Hyper-Threading technology. This will be backed by up to 24MB of cache.

Intel's Quick-Path Interconnect (QPI) architecture is used for the high bandwidth links between the core and the integrated memory controller. The company said that this enables up to nine times the memory bandwidth compared to the previous generation 7400 series. Memory capacity will also increase with support for up to 16 memory slots per sockets.

Intel said it was also introducing new features to the Nehalem EX platform in the form of Machine Check Recovery. Intel's Boyd Davis, general manager for servers, said that the new technology would detect and recover any errors in the CPU, memory or I/O systems that previously would have caused a system to crash.

This increase in reliability would be of particular importance in virtualised environments, where many virtual servers were running on a single host.

Davis also highlighted the support for Live Migration of virtualised servers through Intel's VT FlexMigration Assist technology, designed to support VMware's ESX and vSphere software. However, Boyd told IT PRO that live migration feature would work with any Live Migration from any software vendor.

Promoting the new features of new Xeon Nehalem EX processor, Davis observed that "there's really no such thing as the x86 architecture anymore... As instructions sets have moved forward, we've maintained a high-degree of compatibility and people use the term to imply that chips [from different vendors] are compatible between server environments... but there has been a lot of innovation on at the instruction sets level, and we don't want to be limited."

In the briefing, Davis said that Intel was confident about the forthcoming Nehalem EX architecture based on the positive reaction from the market for its two socket Nehalem EP 5500 series Xeon. He said that by August 2009 half of its two socket server shipments would be for Xeon 5500 series.

Boyd also said that Intel would continue to push Xeon into the market for higher end servers but that it would not overlap with its Itanium platform but admitted that "we're going to drive Xeon as far as it will go."

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.