New Xeons aim at real-time analytics, put another nail in Itanium's coffin

Server vendors and customers have yet another reason to look away from RISC systems.

Intel has refreshed its Xeon E7 line, its top-end processor line that has been eating into the RISC market for some time, with a new generation it claims is capable of performing real-time analytics.

The new Xeon E7 v3 line of server CPUs follows the launch in September 2014 launch of the Xeon E5 v3. Those CPUs are designed for one to four socket systems going into distributed HPC systems or hyperscale cloud data centers. The E7 v3 line, on the other hand, is aimed at mission-critical servers running up to 32 CPUs handling massive workloads.

The E7 line has many of the reliability, scalability and availability features normally found in Itanium and other RISC processors to maintain uptime despite a failure or system error. Like the E5 vs chips, the new E7 CPUs are built on Intel's 22nm Haswell-EX architecture with up to 18 cores per CPU and HyperThreading.

The chips support up to 45MB of Level 3 cache and up to 1.5TB of DRAM per CPU socket, which will appeal to in-memory databases and real-time analytics. In another nod to analytics, Intel has added a new set of extensions called Transactional Synchronisation Extensions (TSX), which Intel says helped SAP's Hana in-memory analytics platform run six times faster than it did when using the previous generation processors.

The E7 v3 is the first of its line to support DDR4, which provides higher memory density and faster memory over DDR3, all while dropping power consumption 20% over the previous generation. It also comes with AES-NI for real-time data encryption/decryption.

Intel and its partners will launch 15 systems based on the new processors today, with that number expected to reach 40 systems within 30 days.

It all makes you wonder why Intel clings to Itanium at this point. The last generation, "Poulson," was released in 2012 and there is no sign of its successor, "Kittson." Virtually all of Intel's Itanium partners except HP have dumped the Itanium in favor of the Xeon E7, and even HP sells NonStop servers with E7 processors as well as Itanium. At some point the company has to just let the Itanic sink below the waves.

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