Intel Unveils Skylake Purley Intel Xeon Scalable Processor With Aim At Modern Data Center Applications

Intel Tuesday rolled out its new Skylake family of server processors aimed specifically at data center applications with the new mesh-based Purley architecture to reduce latency at high core counts.

The new family, the Intel Xeon Scalable Platform, will help customers and partners find new ways to transform data centers to meet the requirements of new cloud, networking and artificial intelligence applications, said Jennifer Huffstetler, senior director of product management for Intel's Data Center Group.

"We think the work our engineers have been doing for years will help meet the needs of future data center requirements. … We've always been investing in compute, but we now have innovations bring to light new ways of doing networking and AI," Huffstetler told CRN.

[Related: AMD Looks For Server Comeback With New EPYC Data Center Processor]

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The new Intel Xeon Scalable Platform processors, which feature up to 28 processor cores per socket, have the performance to give customers improved security, including encryption and decryption of data at nearly no performance penalty, as well as simplified deployments for cloud service provider and other environments, Huffstetler said.

Intel, Santa Clara, Calif., already has shipped 500,000 production versions of the new processors to over 30 customers including OEMs, ODMs and cloud service providers, including Google, which already is offering cloud services on the new platform, she said. "This product is real," she said. "It's in the market."

Server vendors including Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Supermicro are expected to be among the first to unveil systems based on the new processors.

The Intel Xeon Scalable Platform processors are built using a new mesh architecture that offers improved connectivity between processor cores compared with the ring architecture that has been a feature of Intel's data center processors since 2009, Huffstetler said. "This is the first product family with the mesh architecture," she said. "But we did announce our i9 processor family, which also leverages this server core."

At the high end of the family, the new processors offer 28 cores per socket and support up to eight sockets with up to three Intel UPI (UltraPath Interconnect) uplinks, she said. They also support up to 1.5 TB of 2,666MHz DDR4 memory, she said.

Dominic Daninger, vice president of engineering at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based custom system builder with a focus on the high-performance computing market, told CRN that his company has been testing the new processors for a couple of months with customers including National Science Foundation-funded organizations.

"Intel is coming out with a segment of processors designed for high-performance computing," Daninger said. "This is a growing business for us. We have customers using such systems to make some extremely expensive products."

Nor-Tech's Daninger said several features of the Intel Xeon Scalable Processor family fit customers' high-performance requirements, including two 512-bit AVX registers that do complex math functions efficiently, as well as bandwidth improvements from the use of 2,666MHz DDR-4 memory and six memory channels versus four in the previous generation. "The science community seems excited," he said.

Scott Miller, senior director of the data center business at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based solution provider, said his company sees the Intel Xeon Scalable Processor as a full platform upgrade and not just a processor upgrade.

WWT tested the entry-level processors using Cisco M5 with Skylake Purley Platinum Edition and Dell EMC Gen 14 Gold Edition servers, and found the performance to be better than expected, Miller told CRN.

"We stress-tested them with software-defined storage, including VMware vSAN and Dell EMC ScaleIO," he said. "We had good benchmarks from before, and we saw big increases in density and performance. We feel pretty confident in what we saw."

While the increased density and performance were as expected, WWT's team liked the new robust features in the processors that are aimed at future data center applications, Miller said. "We feel it won't be too long until these become the standard x86 server processors," he said.

WWT will be working closely with its server partners to get the new technology into its Advanced Technology Center for customer use as quickly as possible, Miller said.

"We want to use it for multiple different workloads," he said. "Customers want to see how the new technology will impact performance and price."

Intel's Huffstetler said the new Intel Xeon Scalable Processor family has a number of options that partners can use to address specific customer requirements.

These include options that can be integrated into the processors, including the Intel Omni-Path Architecture, a high-speed proprietary fabric for high-performance and low-latency applications; Intel Ethernet connectivity, and the Intel QuickAssist AVX-512, which provides acceleration for data compression or encryption and decryption.

Also available are Intel Optane SSDs based on the 3D XPoint memory technology jointly developed by Intel and Micron Technology.