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Intel Corp., as expected, introduced a breed of new platform components for multiprocessor servers. Targeted at the mid-tier enterprise market segment, the platform consists of five new Xeon MP processors for servers that use four or more processors, and a new chipset.

Intel’s E8500 Uncovered

The main building block of Intel’s new server platform is E8500 chipset designed to support up to 4-way machines. The E8500 consists of three or more chips: the north bridge (NB), the external memory bridge (EMB) and the ICH5 I/O controller.

The north bridge supports two processor system busses, which allows two chips to share one 667MHz bus with, 10.6GB/s bandwidth, which is likely to give new Intel-based servers an advantage over previous generations of Xeon MP-powered systems that had to share one 400MHz processor system bus with 6.40GB/s bandwidth between four chips. Additionally, the NB sports 28 PCI Express lanes, allowing to support up to three PCI Express x8 slots and a PCI Express x4 slot. Also, the NB has 4 Independent Memory Interface (IMI) ports to connect XMBs, each with up to 5.33GB/s read bandwidth and 2.67GB/s write bandwidth simultaneously.

Each XMB supports dual-channel DDR PC2100, PC2700 and DDR2 PC2-3200 types of memory with memory mirroring, RAID, ECC and hot-plug capabilities. Dual DDR memory channels operate in lockstep with four DIMM slots per channel; DIMMs must be populated in pairs, and DIMMs within a pair must be identical.

The E8500 core-logic uses a bit outdated ICH5 I/O controller to provide basic features, such as PCI, Serial ATA, Parallel ATA, USB 2.0, etc.

These and other features provide the infrastructure to support forthcoming dual-core Intel Xeon processors MP including code-named Paxville chip, currently planned for the first quarter of 2006.

Potomac and Cranford Serve Xeon MP

Intel Corp. also released its highly-anticipated Intel Xeon multiprocessing units (MPU) code-named Potomac and Cranford that support Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology as well as Demand Based Switching with Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology.

A 4-way server based on the top-of-the-range Xeon MP chips clocked at 3.33GHz and with 8MB of cache delivers 62%, 57%, 30% and 21% performance improvement in SPECfp*_rate_base2000, Linpack, SAP R/3* SD 2-Tier and SPECint*_rate_base2000 benchmarks respectively over previous generation 4-way servers powered by Intel Xeon MP processors 3.0GHz with 4MB cache, according to Intel.

Intel Xeon processors MP 3.33GHz with 8MB of cache, 3.00GHz with 8MB of cache and 2.83GHz with 4MB of cache are officially quoted at $3692, $1980 and $1177 respectively.

As expected, Cranford processors, which are, just like the Potomac chips, are produced using 90nm process technology, enables relatively affordable Xeon MP machines. The Xeon MP processor 3.66GHz with 1MB of cache and 3.16GHz with 1MB of cache are expected to cost $963 and $722 respectively.

Intel's Xeon MP processors with EM64T and EIST are the company's first x86 chips aimed at multiprocessor servers that can execute natively both 32-bit and 64-bit software. Intel's arch-rival Advanced Micro Devices has been offering its Opteron processors with 64-bit capability starting from April, 2003.

Availability

A wide range of 64-bit Intel Xeon processor MP systems ranging from 4-way blade, rack and pedestal servers up to systems with 32-processors inside (powered by non-Intel chipsets) are currently expected to be available from leading manufacturers worldwide including Dell, Egenera, Fujitsu, Fujitsu Siemens, HCL Infosystems, HP, Hitachi, IBM, Kraftway, Langchao, Lenovo, NEC, Maxdata, Samsung, Stratus, Supermicro, Toshiba, Unisys and Wipro. In addition, Intel currently plans to make available a rack and pedestal Intel Xeon processor MP server platform for systems builders and product integrators.

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