Exotic improvements

With many VMs running on top of a hypervisor, flushing the TLB each time you switched to another VM or to the hypervisor was a costly operation. So the TLBs of the AMD Barcelona cores got a new VM specific tag, called the Address Space IDentifier (ASID). An ASID field was added to each TLB tag.  Intel followed this example more than a year later with its Nehalem CPU. The ASIDs allow the TLB to keep track of which TLB entry belongs to which VM. The result is that a VM switch does not flush the TLB. There's more info on this here.

Since context switching does not only happen between CPUs but also between processes (each process has its own virtual address space), this feature might also be handy for a “native” OS. Some CPU families already incorporated ASIDs a long time ago. Guess. Of course, the famous Alpha CPUs EV4 got this back in 1993. Operating systems will have to support this first, and we don’t expect major performance boosts. Completely exotic is the support for 1 GB pages. 2 MB instead of 4 KB pages make a lot of sense to avoid overwhelming the TLB. But 1 GB pages seem a bit exaggerated until we count our internal RAM in TBs. I was told that a few very exotic HPC applications would be sped up with this. 

And then are of course the obligatory new instructions. Six new instructions have been added to accelerate encryption/decryption using AES. The question remains if the performance improvements are worth the extra debugging time. In some rare cases they might be, but we would be lying if we would say we are enthusiastic about yet another SSE instruction.

The SKUs

Below you find an overview of Intel’s newest line-up. We did not include the AMD’s alternatives as the newest AMD Opteron “Magny-cours” will be launched in a few weeks. The current best AMD Opteron, the six-core Opteron 2435 at 2.6 GHz costs $989. It is clear that this pricing will have to be adjusted downwards with the appearance of both Magny Cours and the new six-core Xeon 5600. We expect the Opteron 2435 to compete with one of the quadcore Xeon E5620 to E5640 models.

Processor Cores TDP Clock Speed Price Notes
Intel Xeon W5680 6 130W 3.3GHz $1663  
Intel Xeon X5670 6 95W 2.93GHz $1440  
Intel Xeon X5660 6 95W 2.80GHz $1219  
Intel Xeon X5650 6 95W 2.66GHz $996  
Intel Xeon X5677 4 130W 3.46GHz $1663 Clockspeed optimized quad-core
Intel Xeon X5667 4 95W 3.06GHz $1440 Clockspeed optimized quad-core
Intel Xeon E5640 4 80W 2.66GHz $744 Clockspeed bin higher than E5540 (2.53)
Intel Xeon E5630 4 80W 2.53GHz $551 Clockspeed bin higher than E5530 (2.40)
Intel Xeon E5620 4 80W 2.40GHz $387 Clockspeed bin higher than E5540 (2.26)
Intel Xeon L5640 6 60W 2.26GHz $996 Two extra cores, same TDP as L5520
Intel Xeon L5630 4 40W 2.13GHz $551 Lowest TDP Rating (5500: 60W)
Intel Xeon L5620 4 40W 1.86GHz $440 No Hyper Threading
Intel Xeon E5507 4 80W 2.26GHz $276 45nm Nehalem, Clockspeed bin higher than E5506 (2.13)
Intel Xeon E5506 4 80W 2.13GHz $219 45nm Nehalem, Clockspeed bin higher than E5505 (2.00)
Intel Xeon E5503 4 80W 2.00 $188 45nm Nehalem, Clockspeed bin higher than E5502 (1.86)


Pricing stays the same as the Xeon X5500 series. Intel adjusted its Xeon lineup to better address some niche markets. For the HPC folks with poor thread scaling but with high performance demands there is the rather expensive X5677 quadcore at 3.46 GHz. The cost sensitive market is addressed by the E5620, E5630 and E5640 quadcores. Those parts get a speedbump for the same price.

One of the most interesting offerings is the L5630. Chances are high that you are not quickly CPU power limited once you buy a server based on Westmere cores. One CPU can still cope with 8 threads, realistically address up to 72 GB of RAM per CPU (144 GB maximum) and needs only 10W per core.

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  • behrouz - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link

    why did you not test magny core ?
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link

    For the same reason that there are no Magny-Cours benchmarks on AMD's site yet :-).
  • drewintheav - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    The INTEL i7 980X has dual QPI's and will run in a dual socket mainboard!!! Such as the EVGA W555 /Classified SR-2

  • Lukas - Thursday, March 18, 2010 - link

    No, i7 980X has only a single QPI link. But i'm pretty sure there's a corresponding W56xx CPU, with two QPI links and twice the price tag.
  • thunng8 - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    "server CPU architecture which already has the fastest cores on the market and you’ll get very impressive results"

    This is not entirely correct. If you limit your self to x64 architecture, it is correct, but the recently released IBM POWER7 8 core chip blows away the Nehalem architecture in the benchmarks released so far.

    For example, a 4 chip, 32 core 3.55Ghz POWER7 server does 85,220 SAPS in the SAP SD 2 tier benchmark and that isn't even the top bin POWER7. (top bin is 3.86Ghz with double the memory bandwidth / core) There are even larger margins in other benchmarks like specIntRate etc.
  • Photubias - Thursday, March 18, 2010 - link

    Just curious: what software (OS/applications) run on that 8Core POWER7 chip?
  • Lukas - Thursday, March 18, 2010 - link

    Linux, AIX, IBM i, z/OS

    That's pretty much it. Lot's of traditional OLTP workloads run on those platforms. Several flight booking systems run on z/OS.
  • Penti - Thursday, March 18, 2010 - link

    z/OS runs on System Z systems with z10 CICS processors. Eg Mainframes.

    IBM System i servers are just high-end POWER servers. Running mainly Java and database loads, directly on IBM i/OS (previously i5/OS and before that AS/400) or AIX, or Linux. IBM DB2 is integrated directly into IBM i/OS.
  • Torment - Thursday, March 18, 2010 - link

    And what does that setup cost?
  • vitchilo - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    What would be great is ONE game test... like Crysis or something...

    And ONE X264 encode test...

    Thanks a lot.

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