Simply put, the new Intel Xeon "Haswell EP" chips are multi-core behemoths: they support up to eighteen cores (with Hyper-Threading yielding 36 logical cores). Core counts have been increasing for years now, so it is easy to dismiss the new Xeon E5-2600 v3 as "business as usual", but it is definitely not. Piling up cores inside a CPU package is one thing, but getting them to do useful work is a long chain of engineering efforts that starts with hardware intelligence and that ends with making good use of the best software libraries available.

While some sites previously reported that an "unknown source" told them Intel was cooking up a 14-core Haswell EP Xeon chip, and that the next generation 14 nm Xeon E5 "Broadwell" would be an 18-core design, the reality is that Intel has an 18-core Haswell EP design, and we have it for testing. This is yet another example of truth beating fiction.

18 cores and 45MB LLC under that shiny new and larger heatspreader.

The technical challenge of the first step to make sure that such a multi-core monster actually works is the pinnacle of CPU engineering. The biggest challenge is keeping all those cores fed with data. A massive (up to 45MB) L3 cache will help, but with such massive caches, the latency and power consumption can soar quickly. Such high core counts introduce many other problems as well: cache coherency traffic can grow exponentially, one thread can get too far ahead of another, the memory controller can become a bottleneck, and so on. And there is more than the "internal CPU politics".

Servers have evolved into being small datacenters: in a modern virtualized server, some of the storage and network services that used to be handled by external devices are now software inside of virtual machines (VMware vSAN and NSX for example). In other words, not only are these servers the home of many applications, the requirements of these applications are diverging. Some of these applications may hog the Last Level Cache and starve the others, others may impose a heavy toll on the internal I/O. It will be interesting to see how well the extra cores can be turned into real world productivity gains.

The new Xeon E5 is also a challenge to the datacenter manager looking to make new server investments. With 22 new SKUs ranging from a 3.5GHz quad-core model up to an 18-core 2.3GHz SKU, there are almost too many choices. While we don't have all of the SKUs for testing, we do have several of them, so let's dig in and see what Haswell EP has to offer.

Refresher: the Haswell Core
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  • LostAlone - Saturday, September 20, 2014 - link

    Given the difference in size between the two companies it's not really all that surprising though. Intel are ten times AMD's size, and I have to imagine that Intel's chip R&D department budget alone is bigger than the whole of AMD. And that is sad really, because I'm sure most of us were learning our computer science when AMD were setting the world on fire, so it's tough to see our young loves go off the rails. But Intel have the money to spend, and can pursue so many more potential avenues for improvement than AMD and that's what makes the difference. Reply
  • Kevin G - Monday, September 8, 2014 - link

    I'm actually surprised they released the 18 core chip for the EP line. In the Ivy Bridge generation, it was the 15 core EX die that was harvested for the 12 core models. I was expecting the same thing here with the 14 core models, though more to do with power binning than raw yields.

    I guess with the recent TSX errata, Intel is just dumping all of the existing EX dies into the EP socket. That is a good means of clearing inventory of a notably buggy chip. When Haswell-EX formally launches, it'll be of a stepping with the TSX bug resolved.
    Reply
  • SanX - Monday, September 8, 2014 - link

    You have teased us with the claim that added FMA instructions have double floating point performance. Wow! Is this still possible to do that with FP which are already close to the limit approaching just one clock cycle? This was good review of integer related performance but please combine with Ian to continue with the FP one. Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, September 8, 2014 - link

    Ian is working on his workstation oriented review of the latest Xeon Reply
  • Kevin G - Monday, September 8, 2014 - link

    FMA is common place in many RISC architectures. The reason why we're just seeing it now on x86 is that until recently, the ISA only permitted two registers per operand.

    Improvements in this area maybe coming down the line even for legacy code. Intel's micro-op fusion has the potential to take an ordinary multiply and add and fuse them into one FMA operation internally. This type of optimization is something I'd like to see in a future architecture (Sky Lake?).
    Reply
  • valarauca - Monday, September 8, 2014 - link

    The Intel compiler suite I believe already converts

    x *= y;
    x += z;

    into an FMA operation when confronted with them.
    Reply
  • Kevin G - Monday, September 8, 2014 - link

    That's with source that is going to be compiled. (And don't get me wrong, that's what a compiler should do!)

    Micro-op fusion works on existing binaries years old so there is no recompile necessary. However, micro-op fusion may not work in all situations depending on the actual instruction stream. (Hypothetically the fusion of a multiply and an add in an instruction stream may have to be adjacent to work but an ancient compiler could have slipped in some other instructions in between them to hide execution latencies as an optimization so it'd never work in that binary.)
    Reply
  • DIYEyal - Monday, September 8, 2014 - link

    Very interesting read.
    And I think I found a typo: page 5 (power optimization). It is well known that THE (not needed) Haswell HAS (is/ has been) optimized for low idle power.
    Reply
  • vLsL2VnDmWjoTByaVLxb - Monday, September 8, 2014 - link

    Colors or labeling for your HPC Power Consumption graph don't seem right. Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, September 8, 2014 - link

    Fixed, thanks for pointing it out. Reply

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