Today, we get to show the first hands-on with the 4th Generation Intel Xeon Scalable, codenamed “Sapphire Rapids.” We are not going to get to show you everything. Intel has specifically only allowed us to show some of the acceleration performance of the new chips. Since it is going to be a few months until these officially launch, we have some significant guardrails on what we can publish. Still, at some point, we wanted to show off these new capabilities, so we took the opportunity.
The reason for this exercise is simple: Intel knows that it is not going to have the highest core counts in the next generation of servers. Still, only a portion of customers buys the highest core count machines. As such, Intel is trying to show that in the core count segments it will compete in, it can significantly increase the performance per core over using other chips in the market. Indeed, you will see that many of the results that we are showing align with what you have seen on STH previously. We have looked at previous-generation accelerators, like Intel QAT. Before we get into the numbers, this is also the first opportunity we have to show the chips and a live system, so we figured why not do that first.
Hands-on with Intel Sapphire Rapids Xeon The System
When we say “hands-on” what we can show you generally is the system that we are using. We can tell you these are 60-core Sapphire Rapids chips, but we cannot tell you the frequency. Part of that is that these are not retail chips, so the specs for the model may change.
We are allowed to take one heatsink off in the system, but since we already have chips in the display case, here are both sides of a Sapphire Rapids chip, although we expect that the top markings will be more traditional.
In terms of what we can tell you about the server we are using, this is an Intel Software Development Platform (SDP) that is manufactured by QCT. When we can show you the AMD EPYC Genoa development platform, our sense is many readers will come back to this piece for a second look.
Here is the test setup. As you can see, this is a fairly standard-looking 2U QCT machine. In the front, we have 24x 2.5″ bays. In the middle, we have a fan partition. Perhaps the big one here, though, is really the CPUs.
The reason this is particularly interesting is because the CPUs have giant heatsinks on them. There are four captive nuts around the heatsink, much as we saw in the Cooper Lake and Ice Lake Installing a 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable LGA4189 CPU and Cooler. The process of installing chips in the new platform is very similar. The biggest difference is that the CPUs have heat pipes with extra heatsink area attached that have extra screws.
This is a design we are going to see both for Intel Xeon “Sapphire Rapids” as well as Genoa-based platforms. Even the Microsoft Genoa platform we saw recently has a similar setup, albeit in a 1U form factor. The trend is clear, for top-bin parts, the area above heatsinks is often not going to be sufficient for passive heatsink cooling in 2U. We do know one top 3 vendor that has designs that do not use these large heat pipe setups at present for next-gen 2U servers, but they may change that design as well.
Here is a look at the right CPU from the rear.
Here is the left CPU. The next generation of processors is going to be using so much power that this heatsink design will be a major change.
Here is another look, including the risers:
Key to our testing is actually this view. The only active riser slots are in the center of the chassis. We needed two Intel E810-C NICs because we are going to be pushing data over the network.
A fun aside here, during testing, we found that we were using an inexpensive 100GbE switch that will be reviewed soon, and we saw significantly lower performance. The key here is really that we are focusing on acceleration. That acceleration is to drive high-speed I/O in many cases. As such, it takes a lot going right to be able to do this kind of testing.
Next, let us get to some accelerators and their performance.