Intel has introduced the Xeon E7 v3 family of processors aimed at mission-critical workloads, bringing enhancements designed to improve performance in multi-threaded workloads, especially those that are heavily memory dependant.
Available immediately, the Xeon E7 v3 chips are set to ship in new server systems now or in the next 30 days from a range of enterprise vendors including Dell, HP, Fujitsu and Bull, Intel said.
The Xeon E7 family is Intel's top-end x86 processor portfolio, aimed at the most demanding data centre workloads including analytics, business intelligence, database management and data warehouse applications.
The new line-up sees Intel bringing the Haswell architecture to the E7 family. This is the same as the Xeon E5 v3 refresh that was introduced last year, but offers an additional 40 capabilities not found in those chips, mostly in reliability, availability and serviceability features.
"Our area of focus with the E7 v3 is on memory-critical applications, like large-scale analytics and business intelligence," said Scott Pendrey, Intel's server product manager for EMEA.
To this end, the new family supports up to 18 processor cores and is available in versions targeting four-socket or eight-socket configurations. Even more sockets are possible if a third-party node controller is used. The two-socket versions seen in last year's E7 v2 family have been dropped to simplify the line-up, Pendrey said.
However, the most significant new feature in the Xeon E7 v3 appears to be something that Intel is calling Transactional Synchronisation Extensions (TSX), which is designed to streamline access to shared memory for multi-threaded workloads.
This adds additional instructions to deliver transactional memory support in hardware, according to Pendrey. It works by implementing a more fine-grained locking mechanism for memory that delivers up to a six times improvement in performance on certain workloads.
More specifically, TSX works with multi-threaded applications developed using coarse-grained locking (a single lock for the entire hash table) but behaves like a fine-grained locking scheme with multiple locks for smaller table sections, Intel said.
The downside to this is that software needs to be updated to take advantage of the new mechanism. One vendor that has done so is SAP with HANA Service Pack 9, according to Intel.
Outside TSX, the Xeon E7 v3 family offers a performance improvement of about 40 percent over the previous generations, rising to about 70 percent for some database workloads.
Pendrey told V3 that Intel sees IBM's Power8 systems as the chief competition for its new Xeon family, as they target the same data centre workloads as Intel and its vendor partners.
"We see Power8 as our biggest rival in this space, but we believe we have a more compelling story around performance per dollar and overall total cost of ownership, as well as outright system cost," he said.
For its part, IBM claims that Power8 systems are more cost-effective than x86 rivals, as they may carry a higher price tag but are capable of consolidating more workloads than x86 platforms. IBM has also just announced configurations for running SAP HANA.
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