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Intel launches new scalable Xeon processor lineup based on Purley architecture

Intel announced the next generation of Xeon server processors utilising the new Purley architecture, an entirely new naming system and the all-powerful AVX-512 instruction set. These Xeon processors reportedly deliver 1.6 times the performance that the previous generation could provide. Aside from the Xeon processors, Intel is also bringing out pre-built and pre-configured solutions for easy deployment. These “Intel Select Solutions” will be reference architectures for enterprise, Compute Service Providers and Cloud Service Providers. Under the banner of the new Xeon scalable processor family Intel is launching over 50 processors ranging from the 8-core Intel Xeon Bronze segment which is the entry level series to the 28-core Intel Xeon Platinum segment that form the flagship series.Intel announced the next generation of Xeon server processors utilising the new Purley architecture, an entirely new naming system and the all-powerful AVX-512 instruction set. These Xeon processors reportedly deliver 1.6 times the performance

There’s one for every use case

These processors are being termed scalable because you can now simply swap out the processor for a more powerful or a more economical SKU based on your needs without having to change up any other component of the entire platform. As part of the Purley platform comes the new Lewisberg PCH family which has 7 different SKUs that offer varying levels of network and encryption capabilities, QuickAssist speeds and PCIe Uplinks to the CPU.

This massive lineup of SKUs exists because enterprise needs scale along a wide spectrum of compute needs from power users who want more than what the consumer SKUs can offer, to the biggest players in the data centre business who have the need for as many cores as money can buy. Also, AMD is now back in the server business after a long absence with their EPYC processors, hence, the need to offer a great performance increment along with scalability to compete in a rejuvenated enterprise market.

EN, EP, EX, and now SPWith scalability coming into the picture, Intel bids goodbye to the segregated processor families. The previous generation of Xeon processors had the EN series which were limited to a 2S configuration, EP (Efficient Performance) series which had both, 2S and 4S configurations and finally, the EX (Extensible Server) series which went all the way up to an 8S configuration or greater with the help on node controllers. With Skylake-SP these segments are being merged under the SP (Scalable Processor) suffix. It should be noted that the PCH will dictate the magnitude of certain capabilities that we’ve mentioned previously but when it comes to CPU support, you can swap the lowest SKU out for the highest SKU without worry.

With scalability coming into the picture, Intel bids goodbye to the segregated processor families. The previous generation of Xeon processors had the EN series which were limited to a 2S configuration, EP (Efficient Performance) series which had both, 2S and 4S configurations and finally, the EX (Extensible Server) series which went all the way up to an 8S configuration or greater with the help on node controllers. With Skylake-SP these segments are being merged under the SP (Scalable Processor) suffix. It should be noted that the PCH will dictate the magnitude of certain capabilities that we’ve mentioned previously but when it comes to CPU support, you can swap the lowest SKU out for the highest SKU without worry.

What’s new

One of the key factors for moving to a newer architecture is the per core performance as well as IPC (Instructions Per Clock). And with Skylake-SP, Intel has done exactly that. To start off, we see that socket to socket communication is made more efficient with UPI (UltraPath Interconnect) and there’s a new cache memory distribution as well. The Shared LLC cache has been reduced and made non-inclusive while increasing the MLC private cache. This allows for the cores to fetch instructions and operands faster with lower wait times. It also includes more Memory channels and lanes allowing for even greater RAM capacities. Then there’s QuickAssist which speeds up compression and cryptography performance. AVX-512 is the new instruction set that has increased performance by 100% in certain analytics workloads as compared to the older Broadwell architecture. Aside from these, there are more architectural changes such as Boot Guard, RunSure, and VMD which we’ll get into greater detail.

Mesh Architecture

In case you want to get a broader explanation on how the new Mesh architecture is different from the previous Ring-Bus architecture that has been used with Xeon processors since the Nehalem microarchitecture, you can read our article here. The obvious advantages of the newer architecture is the scalability aspect.

Nomenclature

The upcoming Xeon architecture is also moving away from the older nomenclature system of using E5 or E7 along with different version suffixes. The newer system will be using newer badges to indicate performance tiers. You’ll find PLATINUM Xeons being the flagship offerings followed by GOLD, SILVER, BRONZE tiers for different use cases. We’ve covered all of these in brief here. PLATINUM being the top-of-the-line will support 8-socket implementations allowing for a lot many more cores to talk to each other without resorting to using nodes. Overall, we’re looking at 58 new SKUs which have been summarised below.

Xeon Platinum (81xx)
    Up to 28 cores
    Up to 8 sockets
    Up to 3 UPI links
    6-channel DDR4-2666
    Up to 1.5TB of memory
    48 lanes of PCIe 3.0
    AVX-512 with 2 FMA per core

Xeon Gold (61xx)
    Up to 22 cores
    Up to 4 sockets
    Up to 3 UPI links
    6-channel DDR4-2666
    AVX-512 with 2 FMA per core

Xeon Gold (51xx)
    Up to 14 cores
    Up to 2 sockets
    2 UPI links
    6-channel DDR4-2400
    AVX-512 with 1 FMA per core

Xeon Silver (41xx)
    Up to 12 cores
    Up to 2 sockets
    2 UPI links
    6-channel DDR4-2400
    AVX-512 with 1 FMA per core

Xeon Bronze (31xx)
    Up to 8 cores
    Up to 2 sockets
    2 UPI links
    No Turbo Boost
    6-channel DDR4-2133
    AVX-512 with 1 FMA per core

The entire SKU stack is a little more complex than the simple structure we’ve provided here. There are SKUs with a 10-year life cycle and there are SKUs that include Omni-Path fabric onto the package. These are indicated by the suffixes T and F, respectively. Then there is the M suffix which indicates the ability to address 1.5 TB of RAM. All of these different SKUs can be seen in the image below.

Mithun Mohandas

While not dishing out lethal doses of sarcasm, this curious creature can often be found tinkering with tech, playing vidya' games or exploring the darkest corners of the Internets. #PCMasterRace