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Server Makers Wild About Intel's Nehalem

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on March 30, 2009

After months of hype, Intel officially took the wraps today off its new server chip, the Xeon 5500.

Known for months as Nehalem, it’s the first major upgrade to Intel’s high-volume x86 server architecture in about three years. It no wonder then, that server makers are salivating over the potential for a massive upgrade cycle.

Cisco recently announced it is joining IBM, Dell and others in selling servers as each tries to boost their share in the corporate datacenter market. Many are betting that Nehalem’s energy-efficiency, virtualization technology and speedy access to information stored in memory will entice spend-thrift companies to toss out their old servers and buy despite the economic belt-tightening.

The Xeon 5500 series boasts triple the memory bandwidth of previous chips and can dynamically adjust its clock speed to account for multiple workloads and demand conditions.

In a briefing March 27, HP executives suggested they will be able to widen their industry-leading share of the mainstream server market by delivering additional features and services on top of Intel’s own to the 11 new Nehalem systems of its ProLiant G6 line.

Among those is the “sea of sensors,” a catchy-named technology that automatically tracks thermal activity across the server through a collection of 32 smart sensors. The sensors dynamically adjust system components such as fans, memory and input/output processing to optimize system cooling and increase efficiency.

HP also is using its financial heft to offer financing with zero-percent loans in some countries and asset purchase-lease back plans.

Like others, HP says the low-hanging fruit will be companies that still are using single-core servers to process, send and retrieve data. Nehalem uses two processor cores to speed up those tasks. It’s actually a great selling feature for companies that want to consolidate their server systems and do more with less hardware.

Most analysts say the new Intel chips deliver everything the company promised, but they’re not sure whether Nehalem will immediately translate into a major upgrade cycle.

Analyst Doug Freedman at Broadpoint AmTech thinks it will. Last week, he upgraded Intel’s stock to buy, citing in part the launch of Nehalem. He set a $17 price target.

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Reader Comments


April 1, 2009 12:51 AM

Nehalem uses 4 processor cores, not two. With HyperThreading it looks like 8 cores per chip.


April 1, 2009 01:24 AM

For servers, power management is irrelevant, or worse, it's a hazard if it is used to slow the CPU down because it is overheated.

Servers need CPUs that can run full-out indefinitely without problems or any kind of throttling.

Power consumption and temperature *monitoring* is of interest for making sure fans and other cooling technologies are doing their jobs, certainly; but actually managing CPU power -- that's like handing a newly married couple a condom made out of cactus skin liberally sprinkled with spines. You could use it... but why would you?

"Hey, let's slow the server down! What a great idea!"

OTOH, The 3x memory bandwidth is a huge win. Memory has always been one of the major bottlenecks (and it still is.) When memory speed reaches CPU speed and we can do away with half measures like cache, we'll really have something. Such an advance will probably require that all system memory be on the same chip as the CPU core(s), or that it is built with a considerably faster technology than that used for the CPU (optical, for instance.) The sooner something along these lines happens, the better.

CPU speeds have reached a fairly hard limit; multiple cores chew up memory bandwidth at unprecedented rates, in an environment where *one* core can max out the bus (and few applications can use them... though in a server environment, with many tasks and clients, they're well utilized.) We've got real problems climbing much further up the performance hill.

Tripling memory bandwidth is a nice start. Power management... pointless for high performance CPUs.


April 1, 2009 04:14 AM

I think technically speaking its actually two dual core chips on one die. Just like the Core 2 Quads which are two dual core chips on one die. (For instance, this is why the L2 Cache on a Kentsfield Q6600 is 2x4MB Shared L2 cache and if you look at the dual core version of this chip, the E6600 it has just 4MB Shared L2 cache.)


April 1, 2009 04:40 AM

+1 on Quad Core. It should also be noted that the 45nm process used in making Nehalem significantly drops power consumption.


April 1, 2009 08:46 AM

EPhud, Hyper-Threading is dead. Four cores look like, well, four cores per chip.


April 1, 2009 09:58 AM

Ben, when you have a large number of servers running, processor throttling translates into many thousands of dollars saved a year.

The whole idea of power management on Nehalem is to dynamically adjust CPU power consumption according to load. If the load on the server increases, it will increase throughput on the fly. So it's not as cut and dry as, O, let's slow teh server down.


April 1, 2009 10:00 AM

Ahhh, Nehalem does bring back HyperThreading, so yes the 4 cores will look like 8 to the OS. I completely disagree that power management doesn't matter in servers. Most servers never come close to maxing out their CPUs, so having CPUs that run at maximum power 100% does little to improve application performance. The idea is there is some intelligence to this process, consume less power when not needed, but give when needed, that's exactly what happens with these newer servers.


April 1, 2009 10:29 AM

"EPhud, Hyper-Threading is dead. Four cores look like, well, four cores per chip."

"Design and performance scalability for servers, workstations, notebooks, and desktops with support for 2-8+ cores and up to 16+ threads with Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology (Intel® HT Technology)." Nahalem and Core I7 indeed do have hyperthreading. You may be confusing the core2 duo with core I7. (core2 duo did not have hyperthreading)

Why "correct" someone when your not sure about the answer?


April 1, 2009 11:00 AM

WW it's you that is wrong, Nehalem is core i7 architecture, it DOES have hyper-threading

Snarf Jabroni

April 1, 2009 11:30 AM

WW - " Hyper-Threading is dead. Four cores look like, well, four cores per chip"

Absolutely incorrect.


April 1, 2009 06:52 PM

> when you have a large number of
> servers running, processor throttling
> translates into many thousands of
> dollars saved a year.

When you have a large number of servers running, where a hundred watts costs literally pennies, if there are enough watts saved to amount to thousands of dollars a year, thousands of dollars will be irrelevant to the scale of the operation.

Throttling is not a useful technology outside of power starved devices, and that's not what we're talking about.

You know what's really useful? A processor that's running flat out when it runs my task. Time is money more than watts are money. That's why we *have* computers.

I'll tell you something else; heat cycling is *really* hard on electronics. If the CPU is heating up and cooling down a lot, it is aging at a rate faster than it needs to, and incurring a higher risk of failure. Same thing goes for HDs that power down - powering up is the max stress event for the hardware, and every time the drive spins up, it's stressing the begosh out of the drive electronics AND the motor. LCDs that power down save you a few pennies in power, and DIE that much sooner, losing you your savings by making your time/dollar in front of them that much more expensive.

It's not as simple as less power costs less money. Engineering isn't like that. It's just wishful thinking and good marketing.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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