For months we have been hearing from OEMs that there is not much interest in a successor to the Intel Xeon -EN platform. A bit of history is required to understand why we are about to see the platform go away, and why it may thrive over the next few years.
Intel released the Sandy Bridge-EN platform in late 2011. The company was just transitioning from the Westmere series of processors using the LGA1366 socket to the new Sandy Bridge generation architectures. With Sandy Bridge’s mainstream platform (Sandy Bridge-EP) supporting massive chips and quad channel memory, Intel built a platform that had a similar footprint to previous generation Westmere chips. The Sandy Bridge-EN had the same basic architecture as the Sandy Bridge-EP chips. It used socket LGA1356 and had a few other reduced features. These included only 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes per chip and triple channel memory. That compares to 40 lanes and quad channel for -EP.
This product line included the Intel Xeon E5-1400, E5-2400, and Pentium 1400 Sandy Bridge-EN series followed by the updated Xeon E5-1400 v2, E5-2400 v2 and Pentium 1400 v2 series of processors.
The -EN series had maximum TDP in the 40-95w range whereas the larger -EP platform scaled from 50-150w. Beyond this, fewer DIMM slots further lowered platform power consumption. Industry sources have told me that the -EN series was meant as a cloud platform for high-density 2P applications and ones that would use -EN processors plus more memory than the Intel Xeon E3 range could address.
The Intel Xeon EN is Dead
After talking to OEMs and systems integrators over the past few months interest in the -EN series waned considerably, especially over the last year. One can see on various vendor sites that there are scarce platforms supporting LGA1356. Furthermore, projects for hyperscale style deployments tend to embrace the LGA2011 platform over the LGA1356.
Even looking at some of the large Chinese ODMs shows that the market moved to the LGA2011 instead of having the “diet coke” version of server platforms with the LGA1356 platform. For example, the Quanta S200 (LGA1356 based) series has fewer variants than the S210 (LGA2011 based) series. One can see, that its design can be adapted to the LGA2011 platform very easily.
The bottom line here is that the Intel Xeon EN is likely going to stop with the Intel Xeon E5-2400 V2 (Ivy Bridge-EN) series. It is not on road maps of tech companies at this point.
Long Live EN – Why you should care
We have done reviews of -EN components. Examples of these are our dual Intel Xeon E5-2430L benchmarks and review and the ASUS Z9NA-D6 review. The platform may end up being an absolutely awesome home lab platform on the second hand market.
From a features standpoint, the -EN series Xeon platforms are very similar to the mainstream -EP platforms. Although there is one less DIMM slot, there are more slots than the Intel Xeon E3 series and the -EN series supports DDR3 RDIMMs. PCIe 3.0 is supported as well as VT-d (on supporting platforms). With dual sockets 12 RDIMMs and 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes -EN makes for a fairly versatile platform.
In terms of price there are a few considerations to consider. First, there are many people building home labs that do not know about the -EN series. Ebay searches focus around the E5-2600 chips not the E5-2400 chips and platforms. That means there is less competition and therefore lower prices than the E5-2400 series. Beyond this, the E5 V3 series will see a transition to DDR4 memory as we have heard from memory vendors. Expect larger DDR3 RDIMM prices to fall in a few months when the DDR4 rush is on.
From an ongoing cost perspective, the E5-2400 v2 parts have low idle power consumption. Furthermore, compared to the prior generation Westmere platforms, there is no large and hot IOH36 IC onboard. That has big implications for the power the platform consumes itself and is required to cool the platform.
In short, the -EN platform will provide the features home lab builders will want, but at lower power consumption than Westmere based platforms and at lower costs than the -EP series. Although we are likely losing -EN for the foreseeable future, if used inventory hits, it will be a platform perfect for home labs.