Intel To Release Lightning-Fast Xeon Chips In February


The Xeon X5687 is a 32-nanometer, quad-core processor that is part of a big update to Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel’s Xeon 5600 series of dual-socket server chips that is planned for early next year. The X5687 has 12MB of L3 cache, eight compute threads and draws 130 watts of power.

The coming Xeon 5600 series release also includes a 3.46-GHz, six-core processor, the Xeon 5690, also with 12MB of L3 cache and sitting in the 130W thermal envelope.

Capabilities on both chips include Hyper-Threading, AESNI, Intel Virtualization Technology (VT), Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) and, of course Turbo Boost -- which could throttle the X5687 very close to the 4.0GHz performance when three of its four cores are turned off and certain thermal conditions are met.

Turbo Boost, now built into most of Intel’s current high-end processors, adds to a chip’s listed clock speed when thermal headroom is available -- in the case of the Xeon X5687, when the processor is chugging along below its maximum thermal design power (TDP) of 130 watts. Turbo Boost also throttles up the clock in further increments, or bins, when cores on a multi-core processor aren’t being used.

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Based on maximum Turbo Boost frequencies listed for current Xeon 5600 series chips, a quad-core, 3.6-GHz chip like the Xeon X5687 ought to flirt with about 3.9GHz when three of its cores aren’t in use. Because Turbo Boost adheres to the TDP envelope and is a dynamic process built into the processor itself, achieving frequencies that high wouldn’t require the extreme cooling solutions and active knob-twiddling used by overclockers to crank CPUs made by Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices well past their listed clock speeds.

Intel released the first 12 processors in the Xeon 5600 series in March. Also known by the code names Gulftown and Westmere EP, the 5600 series is made up of 32nm processors with as many as six cores and 12 compute threads.

Clock speeds for the current Westmere EP product line top out at 3.46GHz for the quad-core Xeon X5677, currently priced at $1,633, and 3.33GHz for the six-core Xeon X5680, also priced at $1,633 in 1,000 unit quantities. Prices for the Xeon 5600 series chips planned for February 2011 were not listed on the Intel roadmap chart obtained by CRN.

One whitebox system builder who asked not to be named called the Xeon 5680 “the fastest and most in-demand processor in the market” for the servers and workstations his company sells.

The series update looks to fill out Intel’s current Westmere EP lineup not just with high-performance parts, but also with some mainstream product and what seems almost certain to become tlhe most affordable chip in the Gulftown stack -- the 1.60-GHz Xeon E5603.

A quad-core, 80W processor without Turbo Boost or Hyper-Threading, the Xeon E5603 also has a slower DDR3 memory clock and less L3 cache than the more fully featured chips above it in the new lineup. The current low-price leader in Intel’s Xeon 5600 series is the 2.4GHz, 80W Xeon E620, priced at $387 and with three times the cache as the E5603.

All of the forthcoming processors are lead-free and halogen-free, according to Intel’s roadmap.