Over the weekend, Charlie at SemiAccurate caused a bit of a buzz with his story that Intel was cutting a major server platform. Since SA is a subscription service, we typically will not scoop their articles but Intel reached out to us proactively, and I spoke to Charlie yesterday before getting this online. The big news is that the “Cooper Lake” generation of Xeon processors is being canceled in the next-generation mainstream Whitley server platform. Let us dissect what that means, and why it is important.
Next-gen Intel Xeon Cooper Lake Changes
Intel has already disclosed a lot on its next-generation platform. First at the 2018 Intel Data-Centric Innovation Summit. Just before the AMD EPYC 7002 series “Rome” launch, Intel disclosed a 2020 Cooper Lake socketed CPU with 56 cores and bfloat16 support. Even before that at the Intel OCP Summit 2019 Keynote it showed off its 2019 Cooper Lake Xeon lineup.
I was sitting in front of the speakers instead of the projector, so I apologize for the angle. What you will see is a 2-socket Whitley platform that will be shared with the next-generation Intel Ice Lake Xeons. This will be the platform that will bring 8-channel DDR4 to the Intel Xeon world as you can count by the DIMM slots shown on the OCP-Intel-Microsoft-Facebook branded slide. This is actually the platform most relevant to the new disclosure.
Here is an Intel Roadmap from the Q3 2018 Intel Datacentric Innovation Summit. As you can see, the 14nm Cooper Lake and 10nm Ice Lake platform was expected to be a combined platform that we now know as “Whitley.”
On the right side of the OCP Summit 2019 picture two images above, you will see 4-socket and 8-socket platforms. These will be the Cedar Island platform that is set to launch in the first half of 2020. Specifically, with bfloat16 support (important for AI training for example) and this multi-socket flexibility, we know that this is a part that Facebook and others are very interested in. We would have expected to hear more about this platform at the OCP 2020 Summit had that event happened as planned earlier this month.
Summing that up, we were set to see Cooper Lake CPUs in Cedar Island for 4-socket and 8-socket configurations. We were then expecting to see another Cooper Lake variant effectively launch the next-generation Whitley platform that will eventually replace the Purley/ LGA3647 platform. Purley supports first and second-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors. That Whitley platform will then be re-used for the Ice Lake Xeon generation that brings 10nm and features such as PCIe Gen4.
That was the state before last week. Now to the new disclosures.
Intel Statements on Cooper Lake Xeon Status
We received an official communication over the weekend on the status of Cooper Lake Xeons from an official Intel spokesperson. Here are the points that we received from Intel:
- Intel constantly evaluates our product roadmaps to ensure we are positioned to deliver the best silicon portfolio for data center platforms.
- Given the continued success of our recent expansion of 2nd Gen Xeon Scalable products, in addition to customer demand for our upcoming 10nm Ice Lake processors, we have decided to narrow the delivery of our Cooper Lake products that best meets our market demand.
- Intel’s upcoming Cooper Lake processors will be supported on the Cedar Island platform, which supports standard and custom configurations that scale up to 8 sockets.
- We continue to expect delivery of Cooper Lake starting in the first half of 2020.
- Customers, including some of the largest AI innovators today, are uniquely interested in Cooper Lake’s enhanced DL Boost technology including the industry’s first inclusion of bfloat16 instruction processing support. We expect strong demand for the technology and processing capability with certain customer segments and AI usages in the marketplace that support deep learning for training and inference use cases.
- Intel’s upcoming 10nm Ice Lake processors will be introduced on the upcoming Whitley platform.
- Intel remains on track for delivery of 10nm Ice Lake CPUs later this year.
That is a lot. Let us discuss what that means.
Impact of Cooper Lake Status Change
What is effectively happening is that Cooper Lake on the Cedar Island platform for 4-socket and 8-socket servers will still be released next quarter. Our sense at STH is that this will be later rather than earlier in the quarter but these things may change given the state of the economy and world events. Still, Intel will launch this since it has large customers (e.g. Facebook) who want this part.
We first heard that Cooper Lake on Whitley was in jeopardy in October 2019. A few vendors started mentioning that engineering sample chips were coming in late. I asked the obvious question, “if Cooper pushes to within a quarter or two of Ice, what happens?” The answer was generally that vendors may drop Cooper support in Whitley to lower the cost of their platforms. As a note, we hear a lot at STH, but we do not post every rumor around which is why this is the first many of our readers will hear of this. Still, it makes sense given the context. If whatever events, health, economic, or simply product readiness have pushed Cooper too close to Ice, then it probably makes sense to streamline the portfolio.
In the market, that will have some impacts. We know that bfloat16 is a huge feature along with increased core counts that have many organizations excited for Cooper Lake. For larger platforms, Intel will have chips with new features and core counts designed to be competitive for out-scaling AMD EPYC 7002 systems. Assuming the current direction holds, by this summer we will see 4-socket Intel Xeon “Cooper Lake” generation parts have more cores than AMD’s “Rome” generation in a system. Even if they have lower core counts per CPU, Intel will have competitive features such as their new instructions. We do not see these as becoming the mainstream Xeon alternative which we discussed recently in Why All Servers Are Not 4-Socket Servers.
On the 2-socket mainstream Xeon side, this is a big change. Intel is now in-market with their big 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable Refresh parts. These “R” SKUs are specifically for one and 2-socket systems. Effectively this was Intel releasing a line that will carry through 2020 until Ice Lake Xeons launch later this year. Depending on when AMD launches Milan, that means that Cascade Lake Refresh SKUs may be the mainstream Xeon parts when Milan launches. Ice Lake Xeons promise a host of new features that we are excited about, but without Cooper Lake, that is all we will have.
There is another impact. For the server OEM/ ODM community, that means their next major mainstream Intel product launch is later in 2020. Those same platforms that were launched alongside the Intel Xeon Scalable Processor Family (Skylake-SP) will be still top-of-the-line more than three years later. Platform refreshes are important in the industry since they help vendors initiate sales conversations with customers as well as bring new technologies. For example, we would have significantly more PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSDs in-market at this point if Ice Lake was already out. The other side of this is that by rationalizing the release schedule, partners will not have to do two launches of the same platform in 2020. If Cooper Lake hit in late 2019 as that OCP Summit 2019 Intel Keynote slide said, then that is a different story. As the timeline compressed, this makes sense which is what we heard from OEMs last year.
Overall, this is a big deal. Intel has rationalized a platform as SemiAccurate originally scooped and Intel confirmed to STH yesterday. The impact of these changes will trickle through the ecosystem over the next year.
We should also be mindful that there is a lot of global economic uncertainty at the moment. Perhaps it is wise to focus energies on one launch later in the year rather than launching a shorter-term product.
For those saying Cooper Lake is “dead”, Intel confirmed that it is still on track for the first half of the year. We pressed for a date, but as one can imagine, scheduling is fluid with major events being postponed or canceled. What we can say is that we will keep STH readers up-to-date with Cooper Lake when it does launch on the Cedar Island platform.