Intel’s New Xeon: End of RISC, Start of Analytics, Both, Or?

Focusing on and – and delivering more than a few shots at its RISC-based server competitors – Intel took the wraps off the 20 new models in the Xeon Processor E7 v2 family, AKA . Featuring 2X the performance, 3X memory capacity, 4X I/O bandwidth, and 5X reliability (99.999%), as well as 20 world records for mission-critical performance, the new CPUs deliver up to 80% more performance and up to 80% lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than alternative RISC architectures, according to Diane Bryant, SVP & GM, Intel’s Data Center Group.

During the webcast announcing the new platform, Bryant said data analytics has become a high priority, the number one priority, and is expected to grow 6X between 2014-2018. “Those that lead are clearly winning.”

Big Data, the Internet of Things (projected to grow to 30 billion devices by 2020) and analytics are huge opportunities that Intel intends to capture a larger share of. It said the Big Data technology and services market is expected to grow 27% annually through 2017 to reach $32.4 billion.

Using analytics can also deliver significant cost savings, the company stated. For example, Intel’s IT organization expects to achieve cost savings and increased bottom-line revenue of nearly half a billion dollars through use of analytics solutions by 2016.

More than 40 servers from 21 system manufacturers are being announced, from the likes of , , , EMC, Fujitsu, , , IBM, Lenovo, NEC, Oracle and . Software vendors are also jumping on the analytics bandwagon, including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Pivotal, Red Hat, , SAS, Software AG and Teradata.

So is this mainly about bringing advanced analytics to the masses, burying the already struggling RISC competition, both, or neither? While the performance numbers are impressive, they don’t really impact the cost (high) of analytics software and the shortage (also high) of business analysis/data scientist skills.

“On the analytics side, the real momentum seems to be largely around x86-based solutions like SAPs HANA so the E7v2 should do very well there,” said Charles King, President & Principal Analyst,Pund-IT. The implications for the RISC market are a little murkier, he said.

“The RISC shrinkage issue is more complicated since at least some of the preference for those systems is essentially generational. Realistically, the dramatic improvements in memory support and throughput performance of E7v2, coupled with what Intel expects will be extremely competitive pricing will likely increase the pressure on Unix system sales, including both RISC and EPIC solutions.”

According to Gartner’s latest numbers, the Q3 server market grew 1.9% while revenue shrank 2.1%. The x86 platform did better in both metrics (2.1% in units, 4.4% in revenue), while RISC/Itanium Unix servers continued to decline (4.5% and 31% , respectively).

Intel BFFs Cisco, Dell, HP and IBM shared the stage with Bryant, extolling the virtues of the new chips and the brave new world for analytics. They shared early results from customers and partners that indicated tremendous savings in time and resources.

Claiming 6 of the 20 world record benchmarks announced by Intel, Cisco rolled out three servers based on the new processors: the UCS B460 M4, UCS B260 M4, and UCS C460 M4. Dell unveiled the PowerEdge R920, “a beast in terms of performance, onboard storage and all the workloads it can push.”

HP announced the ProLiant DL580 Generation 8 (Gen8) server (starting at $13,079) and upcoming enhancements to the DL560 and BL660c x86 servers. “Two years ago, HP announced Project Odyssey to meet these challenges and redefine the future of mission-critical computing with a development roadmap that makes mission-critical on x86 a reality while furthering the company’s investment in established mission-critical solutions,” said Ric Lewis, VP and GM, Enterprise Server Business, HP, in a prepared statement. “Today’s announcement continues to build on this promise of dramatic performance improvements at substantial efficiencies.”

The Fiddly Bits

The Intel Xeon processor E7 v2 family has triple the memory capacity of the previous generation processor family, allowing much faster and thorough data analysis. Built for up to 32-socket servers, with configurations supporting up to 15 processing cores and up to 1.5 terabytes (TB) of memory per socket, the new processor family achieves twice the average performance of the previous generation. To reduce data bottlenecks, they feature Intel Integrated I/O, Intel Data Direct I/O and support for PCIe 3.0, achieving up to four times the I/O bandwidth over the previous generation and providing extra capacity for storage and networking connections. For world-class reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS), the processors also feature Intel Run Sure Technology10, which is designed for “five nines” solutions.

The performance numbers came fast and furious:

-Cisco: VMware VMmark 2.5.1 Benchmark (Virtualization and Cloud Performance)- Number-one 2-socket 2-node result; SPECint_rate_base2006 Benchmark (general CPU performance) — Number-one 2-socket server result; SPECfp_rate_base2006 Benchmark (general CPU performance)- Number-one 2-socket server result; SPECompG_base2012  Benchmark (parallel computing performance)- Number-one 2-socket server result; SPECint_rate_base2006 Benchmark (general CPU performance)- Number-one 4-socket server result; and, SPECompG_base2012 Benchmark (parallel computing performance)- Number-one 4-socket server result;

-Dell: a world record 4-socket Linux benchmark result of 24,150 benchmark users on the SAP SD 2-Tier benchmark; a 71% improved performance over the previous best E7-4800 4-socket SAP SD benchmark; nearly the same performance in an SAP environment compared with the previous generation 8-socket servers, providing up to a 50% cost savings in software licensing to the customer; processing more than twice the number of Oracle OLAP queries than with previous generation server configurations and when coupled with a Dell Compellent Flash-optimized solution; and, more than twice the throughput to process larger Oracle OLAP data sets and twice the reduction in latency;

-HP-leveraging in-memory technology accelerates business transactions up to 30 times faster; efficiency improvements through infrastructure consolidation and intelligent management to provide a 45% reduction in total cost of ownership; and, advanced system resiliency using HP Advanced Error Recovery for proactive fault isolation and HP Memory Quarantine for up to 30% greater memory and processor reliability;


Author: Steve Wexler

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