Intel Brings 32nm Xeon 5600 Series To The Data Center

Intel ushered in its 32-nanometer Gulftown class of processors Tuesday, including several six-core server chips in its new Xeon 5600 series and the chip giant's first six-core desktop PC part, the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition.

The Core i7-980X, previewed by the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant at last week's Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, is a 3.33GHz processor with 12MB of L3 cache that is priced at $999 per unit in 1,000-unit quantities on Intel's updated processor price list.

The Extreme Edition part features such Intel technologies as Turbo Boost, which allows for the throttling up and down of individual cores for performance that can exceed its listed clock speed, and Hyper-Threading, meaning the chip has 12 computing threads for its six cores.

Intel's Xeon 5600 series follows on from last year's splashier introduction of the Xeon 5500 series, 45nm server and workstation-optmized processors that brought the chip maker's Nehalem microarchitecture to its Xeon brand -- a launch that Intel at the time called "the most important server launch we have done since the Pentium Pro."

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The new 5600 series processors range in clock speed from 1.86GHz for a very low-power quad-core part that draws just 40 watts of power to a 3.33GHz six-core and a 3.46GHz quad-core that draw 130W. Prices range from $387 to $1,663 for server/workstation parts, with an additional trio of Xeon 5600 series chips optimized for embedded systems not listed on Intel's new price list.

The Xeon 5600 series - 15 new processors in all, including six with six cores -- marks the next step in Intel's transition to its 32nm process technology, known as Westmere. While Intel isn't heaping the superlatives on the new chips the way it did with the Nehalem launch, the company is promising that 5600 series processors will deliver "up to 60 percent greater performance" than the 5500 series.

Intel has also reprised its return-on-investment pledges of a year ago. With the introduction of the 5500 series last March, the chip giant promised that a one-for-one swap of older single-core Xeon servers for 5500 series systems would deliver a nine-times performance boost, while swapping out eight older servers for just one 5500 series server would yield ROI within just eight months.

The new math is even more impressive. Intel now maintains that data centers could swap out 15 single-core servers with a single 5600 series server and get their money back in just five months. Intel is also claiming that its new chips have achieved "12 new world records for two-socket servers and workstations."

Key ingredients in the Xeon 5600 series include energy efficiency gains due to the die shrink and a new set of security instructions that enable faster data encryption and decryption. Another new feature is Intel TXT, a processor-based security shield for virtualized and cloud environments that offers better protection for applications as they move between virtualized servers, according to Intel.

All of the new 5600 series chips have 12MB of L3 cache regardless of core count. Here's a breakdown of the new Xeon 5600 series server/workstation chips, with specs and prices:

Xeon X5680 (six cores, 3.33GHz, 130W, 6.40GT/s QPI): $1,663

Xeon X5670 (six cores, 2.93GHz, 95W, 6.40GT/s QPI): $1,440

Xeon X5660 (six cores, 2.80GHz, 95W, 6.40GT/s QPI): $1,219

Xeon X5650 (six cores, 2.66GHz, 95W, 6.40GT/s QPI): $996

Xeon E5640 (four cores, 2.66GHz, 80W, 5.86GT/s QPI): $774

Xeon E5630 (four cores, 2.53GHz, 80W, 5.86GT/s QPI): $551

Xeon E5620 (four cores, 2.40GHz, 80W, 5.86GT/s QPI): $387

Xeon X5677 (four cores, 3.46GHz, 130W, 6.40GT/s QPI): $1,663

Xeon X5667 (four cores, 3.06GHz, 95W, 6.40GT/s QPI): $1,440

Xeon L5640 (six cores, 2.26GHz, 60W, 5.86GT/s QPI): $996

Xeon L5630 (four cores, 2.13GHz, 40W, 5.86GT/s QPI): $551

Xeon L5609 (four cores, 1.86GHz, 40W, 4.80GT/s QPI): $440

The Xeon 5600 series also includes new processors for embedded systems, including the six-core Xeon E5645 and L5638, and the quad-core Xeon L5618 and E5620 processors.