After the launch of the Intel Xeon Scalable processor family over a month and a half ago, one question we have fielded repeatedly is “what about the Intel Xeon E5-1600 successor.” Today we have that answer in the Intel Xeon W processor family for professional workstations. This generation also has a marked difference versus the previous four (and more) Xeon generations: there is a different socket and RAM configuration than on dual socket workstations.
Intel Xeon W Processors for Professional Workstations
First some context. The new Intel Xeon W-2100 series processors are single socket only. Want a single (or now quad) CPU workstation? Intel Xeon Scalable is Intel’s current solution.
We did an absolute ton on the Intel Xeon Scalable series. See Intel Xeon Scalable Processor Family (Skylake-SP) Launch Coverage Central. Here are the Xeon Scalable / Skylake-SP SKUs Intel sees as “workstation” capable.
It seems that Intel is drawing a line in the sand with 3.7GHz and only Gold 6100 series or higher SKUs.
The new release centers around the Intel Xeon W series processor. Here is the overview slide:
Unlike X299 platforms, everything is enabled. 48x PCIe 3.0 lanes. DDR4-2666 across the SKU line. ECC memory support (quad channel.) LGA 2066 and up to 18 cores / 36 threads.
The new platform rides atop the Intel C422 chipset. While the Intel C622 chipset for Xeon Scalable has dual 10GbE, the C422 has only a single 1GbE. Again, this is another instance of Intel Xeon product naming and numbering getting harder to understand.
Key here is that one can use up to 512GB DDR4-2666. That figure is interesting since using 2 DIMMs per channel, four channels and 128GB LRDIMMs would yield a theoretical 1TB RAM support or more than a server Skylake-SP non-M chip. From the motherboard manufacturers we have spoken to, the platform is supposed to support up to 32GB RDIMMs and 64GB LRDIMMs.
SATA in this generation is down to only 8x SATA III ports. That is certainly a small downgrade over the previous generation. While very few high-end workstations will use that many SATA disks, we have little doubt that some motherboard vendors will provide add-on controllers to reach parity with the previous generation parts. This is the first sign that the SATA III interface is waning in its importance.
Intel Xeon W SKUs for Workstations
Here is the official SKU list for the new workstation parts:
2x AVX-512 puts the AVX capabilities closer to the Xeon Gold 6100 and Platinum 8100 series. The software ecosystem is starting to support AVX-512 so that is a major consideration.
Here is a quick look at the SKU list in a more standard STH format
If you want more threads and do not need high clock speeds, there are quite a few options in the Intel Xeon Silver range that could be intriguing.
If you have had an Intel Xeon E5-1600 (V1-V4) series system, this is a major expansion of the lineup. While one gives up a few SATA ports, one gains more PCIe lanes. We were a bit shocked to see the news that the platform does not get 10GbE built-in. That is now a low-end embedded feature with the Intel Xeon C3000 series. It is 2017 so not seeing this as a standard feature is borderline shocking, even on motherboards such as the Gigabyte MW51-HP0.
If you previously utilized dual socket workstations, the flip side is that the new options cost significantly more. An Intel Xeon E5-2687W V4 has the most direct successor in the Intel Xeon Gold 6136 at about a 10% price premium. That is one of the lower-cost Intel Xeon Gold series CPUs.
On balance, this is a major step forward from the Intel Xeon E5-1600 V4 line. It is also a major departure as it is the first time in over half a decade since the single socket Intel Xeon workstation part (excluding the Xeon E3 series) used a different socket than the dual socket variants. Intel’s new model is toward higher prices and that is reflected in this newest generation.