Alas, poor Itanium; it may not be long for this world. At the very least, one would think so after hearing what Intel said today about Nehalem-EX, its upcoming (and fastest yet) multi-socket x86 processor.
Nehalem-EX is based on the same underlying technology as the Core i7 and the Xeon 5500 series, but it's supercharged in almost every way. Intel has outfitted it with eight cores, 16 threads, 24MB of shared cache, four QuickPath links, four memory channels, and support for up to 16 memory modules per socket (with the help of external Intel Scalable Memory Buffer chips). Most impressively, Intel has crammed all of the above into a single, massive die made up of 2.3 billion transistors. Yikes.
In a four-processor server, the chip's four QuickPath links allow it to talk directly to any one of the other three CPUs. The quadruple QuickPath links also enable eight-way configs with a whopping 128 threads (that's eight times eight cores with two threads per core, thanks to the magic of Hyper-Threading):
And that's not all. Intel says Nehalem-EX has even inherited some key reliability features from its Itanium cousins:
Nehalem-EX will add new reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) features traditionally found in the company’s Intel® Itanium processor family, such as Machine Check Architecture (MCA) Recovery. Together with new levels of performance, both high-end processors should speed the move away from more expensive, proprietary RISC-processor based systems.
Incidentally, Intel's presentation included some numbers showing how Nehalem-EX stacks up against the company's previous multi-socket x86 processors, the six-core Xeon 7400 series (a.k.a. Dunnington). According to the company's internal tests, Nehalem-EX delivers up to nine times the memory bandwidth, 2.5 times the database performance, 1.7 times the integer throughput, and 2.2 times the floating-point throughput.
So, when can you get some Nehalem-EX systems delivered to your server farm? Intel says the CPU will enter production "in the second half of 2009," with more than 15 eight-socket designs coming from eight different server makers.