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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  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    Are you seriously going to buy a dual socket server (or workstation at a minimum) to play games? I'd rather see them take the time to do more enterprise benchmarking than waste it on what 0.00001% of the market wants.
  • Starglider - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link

    No but some HPC / CAD / scientific computing benchmarks would be good. Presumably we'll get the full suite when Nehalem EX and Magny Cours turn up.
  • vitchilo - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    I want to encode video, I mean a s***load of video + play games from time to time.
  • rajod1 - Monday, February 1, 2016 - link

    You see you are writing server cpu reviews to punk kids that somehow only think of playing a game on a server. They just do not get it. Babies with computers, maybe this could play mario. These are good for boring server work, database, HyperV, etc. ECC ram. And they are still the best bang for the buck in a used server in 2016.
  • Starglider - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    > You can now use up to two DIMMs at 1333MHz,
    > while the Xeon 5500 would throttle back to
    > 1066MHz if you did this.

    Presumably you mean 'up to two DIMMs per channel'?
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    Not sure about the 2 DIMMs per channel forcing 1066Mhz. We've been ordering Dell R710s with the X5570 and 12x4GB of memory, which runs at 1333Mhz.
  • TurboMax3 - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link

    You are right. I work for Dell, since a couple of months after the launch of the 5500 Xeons we could do 2 DIMM per Channel (DPC) at 1333 MHz. It is a property of the chipset, rather than the CPU.

    Also, going to 3 DPC will clock the memory down to 800 MHz, and this has been available in R710 (and similar products from others) for some time now.

    The 8GB DIMM is getting cheap enough to be quoted without shame. 16 GB DIMMS still cost as much as my car.
  • Navier - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    Do you have information on Nehalem-EX and how that is going to fit in the updated road map with the latest 6 core systems?
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    The Nehalem-EX (probably called the Xeon 7500 series) are for quad socket boxes. From what I've been hearing, they should be released on 3/30. Not sure when the Poweredge R910 and Proliant DL580 G7 will show up though.
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link

    it is launched on 30/3 but actually only available mid june, call it a paper launch or whatever you want.

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