RealTime IT News

Intel Lets Out Its Tigerton

Intel on Wednesday released its new family of multi-processor (MP) Xeon server chips, the Quad-Core 7300, which completes Intel's transition to the Core architecture and gives its MP products a big performance boost.

The 7300 line, developed under the codename Tigerton, fills out the top end of the Xeon line in the MP space, which consists of servers with four or more processors. Intel's  previous line of MP processors, known as the Tulsa line, were based on the older NetBurst architecture. Tigerton is based on the Core microarchitecture used in all of Intel's other x86 processors.

Intel plans to make a major overhaul to its server line late next year with Nehalem, so it might seem Tigerton's time is short. But Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager of the server platform group, said there is much life to be had in it.

"If you look at our roadmap, we tend to launch the technology into the dual processor roadmap and then multiprocessor," she told internetnews.com. "If you look at what's valued in the four-way space, it's about performance, absolutely, but it's also about the capacity in the machine, something we're committed to doing regularly."

Kevin Van Mondfrans, product marketing manager in HP's ProLiant group, said that Intel has done a good job of keeping the aging Tulsa line up to speed. "Intel's been refreshing this four-way stuff a little more rapidly than they have in the past. Their commitment to refresh the space has been pretty aggressive," he said.

The multiprocessor market is very specific. While it does support virtualization, that darling buzzword of 2007, it's primarily aimed at databases, CRM, ERP and compute-intensive tasks. Cloverton, Intel's most recent quad-core Xeons, are aimed at the two-way, or dual processor (DP) market.

There is a total of six new quad-core Xeon 7300 processors, from a 50-watt, 1.86GHz energy-efficient chip to the high-performance, 2.93GHz, 130-watt chip. The 7300 chips are all quad core, a doubling of the number of cores over the older generation. Bryant claims that Tigerton offers a three-fold performance per-watt improvement over Tulsa and an overall 40 percent reduction in power.

As important as the 7300 is, its accompanying chipset, codenamed Clarksboro, is designed around improving interconnects and removing bottlenecks. It has four high-speed interconnects between the four processors, all at 1066MHz, which Intel said will double system bandwidth.

The 64MB snoop filter, like the one in IBM's recent X4 servers, will provide a directory of data on all of the processor caches. Clarksboro supports 8GB memory DIMMs, an upgrade from the 4GB DIMMs before, and can handle up to 256GB of memory total in a system. The old Tulsa systems could address 64GB maximum.

Van Mondfrans said Tigerton gives the ProLiant line a real kick in performance. For comparison, the old Tulsa chips scored a TPMC of 407,000 transactions per minute, compared with 318,000 TPMC on Tulsa and 250,000 on a Clovertown server. "So the performance is very real," he said.

Indeed, he said this will give MP the performance gap it needed, because DP and MP were becoming indistinguishable. "Before Tigerton, [DP and MP] were getting pretty close in terms of performance. This new architecture gives us the differentiation from a two-way platform and sufficient reason for a customer to buy one of those vs. multiple two way servers," he said.

Tigerton processors will range in price from $856 to $2,301 in quantities of 1,000.