Intel has officially launched the Xeon D processor family, the first Xeon system on a chip (SoC) designed to drive server, storage and compute applications at the network edge and other locations outside the typical data centre core.
Now in production, the Xeon processor D-1500 family joins Intel's existing server SoCs based on the Atom processor line, but delivers the greater processing power of the 14nm Broadwell core along with integrated I/O circuitry and networking to slot into microservers and appliances for networking and storage.
Announcing the new chips, Intel's general manager for the Data Centre Products Group, Lisa Spelman, pointed to the huge growth in data traffic being driven by devices like smartphones and tablets, which will increase with new types of connected device coming as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).
"Our service provider customers told us there are barriers to efficient scaling, and they are looking to serve more workloads at the network edge rather from the data centre itself. But there are space and power constraints here, so you need to fit more and more processing power into same rack or node," she said.
The Xeon D family aims to address this by bringing the power of Intel's Xeon chips into an SoC form factor that can fit inside smaller nodes and appliances. Spelman claimed that there are already over 50 systems being developed by vendor partners. About 25 percent of these are microservers, about 36 percent are storage hardware, and 43 percent are aimed at networking and the IoT.
At launch, the Xeon D family comprises the Xeon D-1540, an eight-core chip clocked at 2GHz, and the Xeon D-1520, a quad-core chip clocked at 2.2GHz. Both are 20W to 45W components boasting dual memory channels for up to 128GB of DDR3 or DDR4 memory, and integrated I/O and networking.
On the I/O side, the Xeon D chips have 24 lanes of PCI Express (PCIe) 3.0, eight lanes of PCIe 2.0, six Sata ports for storage and four USB ports, all on one chip alongside two 10Gbps Ethernet ports.
The Xeon D family was first hinted at in 2013, when Intel detailed its Atom-based server SoCs, the Atom C2000 family. The Xeon D line does not replace these, but instead offers up to 3.4 times the performance and up to five times the network bandwidth, according to Intel.
Intel is not the only IT firm to see growth potential by addressing the need for in-network and edge-of-network processing power.
Rival chip designer ARM detailed its own initiatives last month to help its chip licensees target service providers with SoCs to power network appliances and the like.
However, Intel is playing its compatibility trump card, saying that the Xeon D will enable service providers to run the same workloads at the network edge as they already run on Xeon boxes in the data centre.
"With Xeon at the network edge, you can run common packages down from the data centre to the network edge. With software compatibility, you can extend the investments you've made in the data centre down to the network edge," said Spelman.
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