RealTime IT News

Intel Lowers Xeon Power Draw

Intel today upped its Xeon offerings with a faster low-power processor and finally made its fastest chip usable by major OEMs.

The company introduced the 50-watt Xeon X5335, a 2.0GHz chip with a 1333MHz front-side bus. It replaces the 1.6GHz part that Intel  had been shipping. Also, the 3.0GHz X5365 is now viable to OEMs thanks to a power draw reduction. Instead of requiring 150 watts, it now draws 120 watts.

This had made the 5635 unpopular with OEMs, as they had designed their Xeon systems around a 120-watt power envelope. As a result, Intel had only one customer for its fastest Xeon: Apple  . It was a late arrival to the Intel camp but its Mac Pro desktop, the only non-iMac/iBook Apple offers, was the only computer using a pair of 3.0GHz Xeon chips.

But OEMs wanted 120-watt draws, since they were using Intel's "Bensley" platform, which was built around that power envelope. Existing "Bensley" servers can upgrade to the 3.0GHz chips without any further modification beyond a chip replacement.

"All the OEMs that we've designed our Bensley platform around have designs for a thermal envelope up to 120," Shannon Poumin, director of Xeon platform marketing at Intel told In fact, only 10 percent of Intel's Xeon sales are 120 watts. Around 80 percent are 80-watt chips and the rest are low power.

Ken Cayton, server research manager for IDC, thinks this will definitely help Intel in the high-end market. "They've got a higher performance part within the power envelope that will fit into those existing systems, and they have a broad spectrum of parts at different price points. That combination will accelerate the product in the marketplace," he said.

Intel is introducing new virtualization technology with these chips, which will eventually find their way into other Xeon processors. This new feature provides better interrupt handling in Windows.

In a virtualized environment, occasionally the operating system needs to perform tasks at a system level and it needs to stop running the virtual machines. These interrupts can compromise performance or at the very least cause disruption.

The new interrupt manager queues up lower priority interrupts so that when there comes a point of very low system load, all of the tasks are done at once. This means fewer interruptions, and the system knows to wait until it has a free moment to process them, according to Poumin.

Cayton said the improved interrupt handling will solve two problems. "One, it gives you more processor to play with, because not as much is being used by the server itself, and the other issue you got into is you can run more VMs simultaneously without any kind of conflict between VMs," he said.

Intel also said the processors also include a new system-transparent energy smart technology that Intel claims will reduce idle power usage by up to 50 percent. The X5365 will be sold in lots of 1,000 for $1,172 while the L5335 will sell for $380 in lots of 1,000.