Is this DDR4 demo box Haswell-EP in action?

One of the highlights of this year’s Intel Developer Forum was the introduction of the Xeon E5 v2 processors based on Ivy Bridge-EP silicon. Naturally, much of the conference’s focus was on those Xeons, along with the other new products Intel introduced during the week.

However, as I wandered about the show floor looking for new and interesting things, my eye was quickly drawn toward a system sitting unobtrusively under the counter in the Kingston booth. Have a look at it:

Yep, it’s a live, working demo of DDR4 memory, which piqued my curiosity.

You see, I got to talk with some of the Ivy Bridge-EP architects prior to the Xeon E5 v2 launch. They gave us the tour of their new chip, and nobody said a peep about DDR4 support in the memory controller. Ivy-EP is a drop-in replacement for Sandy Bridge-EP, with an established socket infrastructure. I don’t think DDR4 support is in there.

That raises the question: what exactly is the mystery CPU driving 192GB of DDR4 memory at 2133 MT/s in this demo box? I asked the Kingston folks point blank, and they were curiously unable to answer with any specificity at all on that subject. The point of the demo, they said carefully, was to demonstrate the progress and potential of DDR4 memory.

I peeked into the window on top of the demo system and was able to see a bit more. The system is based on a dual-socket motherboard, but only one socket is populated, with only the DIMM slots next to it holding DDR4 modules.

Yes, that means a single CPU is connected to all 192GB of memory in this box. Presumably, adding a second processor and filling those empty DIMM slots could raise the total RAM capacity to 384GB. Suddenly, that 128GB Dell Nehalem-EX system we reviewed a while back is starting to look less impressive.

I’m pretty certain what we’re looking at here is a Haswell-EP processor in action. iSuppli expects DDR4 memory to begin making a dent in the market next year, and Intel will have to provide the infrastructure to enable that transition. Odds are that, by next year’s IDF, new Xeons based on Haswell-EP silicon will be making their way into end-user systems. Based on this demo, it looks like Intel is already well down the path to making that happen.

Comments closed
    • yuhong
    • 6 years ago

    Personally, I hope that the next generation (after DDR4) will produce something more friendly to hobbyists. Right now, DDR motherboard routing require trace length matching typically using serpentine routing for example. FB-DIMMs tried to get rid of this using AMB but it did not catch on.

    • albundy
    • 6 years ago

    “Is this DDR4 demo box Haswell-EP in action?” Maybe they should have put DDR-4 labels across the case.

    • Krogoth
    • 6 years ago

    It is probably an Ivy Bridge-EP prototype using a DDR4 memory controller for testing purposes. I don’t think it will see general release until DDR4 is ready for the masses.

    It isn’t that far-fetched either since DDR4 is just another evolution of DDR2-DDR3 line. Lower voltages and higher clock speeds at the expense of latency. It might even be the same memory controller just handling lower voltages found in DDR4. Kinda how 3 and 4 series Chipset family was able handle to DDR2/DDR3, but was up to motherboard vendor to use whatever standard. If this is the case, then DDR4 is going use the same 240pin DIMM slot, but key differently to prevent DDR2 and DDR3 units from being used.

    • pandelta
    • 6 years ago

    There have been rumors for nearly two months that mobo manufacturers have 15 core Haswell EP chips in house for testing. Takes a long time to certify them and when you add DDR4 it just makes it all the more likely its true.

    • madmilk
    • 6 years ago

    I’m guessing this is actually Ivy Bridge-EX, since 12 channels of memory per CPU socket (DDR4 is point-to-point) without external memory buffers seems a bit farfetched.

      • Damage
      • 6 years ago

      Hmm. Yeah, the EX possibility is a good thought. Could well be it.

    • Bauxite
    • 6 years ago

    2 banks of 6 channel dimms?

    Shouldve gotten a better shot of the empty socket to get an idea on pin count and maybe dimm trace config. The populated one is totally obscured with that damn shroud.

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      Socket 2011 can handle that many modules if you use FB-DIMMs on some of the higher-end Socket 2011 Server boards.

      • Sigma0004
      • 6 years ago

      The count is 288 pins and to those worried about latency issues:
      [url<]http://techgage.com/news/samsung_develops_the_first_30nm_ddr4_dram/[/url<] That engineering sample from 2 years ago was CAS 13-- by the time they release ddr4 for consumption it should be equivalent to ddr3 latencies. Also the fact they're applying the same gains that we received (from the transition from PCI to PCIe) to memory should nullify [b<]actual[/b<] latency increases. DDR4 implementation could also be an explanation why Broadwell will be shipping as BGA and skipping the desktop sector. They may be having issues with the silicon in LGA and want to hammer out any remaining flaws as they don't need another black-eye like the P67 sata bug.

    • NeelyCam
    • 6 years ago

    I fear Intel which controls the release and production of new ram will close the market on AMD by continually stopping DDR4 from hitting the market. It’s not only cheaper to produce but also faster and more responsive. If AMD ever released an APU powered by DDR4 it’d destroy the Intel Flagship in Multimedia. DDR4 was supposed to be marketed at the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012. Intel is pulling dirty tricks…

    … wait, what?

      • Pwnstar
      • 6 years ago

      Good one!

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      Insane troll logic?

      You realize that DDR4 is meant for laptops and making it easier to manufacturer higher-density modules? System memory bandwidth and latency hasn’t matter for vast majority of users for years. If your platform and applications need more memory bandwidth. You throw in more channels (See Socket 1366 and Socket 2011).

        • NeelyCam
        • 6 years ago

        [quote<]Insane troll logic?[/quote<] Pretty much.. It was a direct quote from the troll speedyvt that's been whining about DDR4 on multiple threads

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      A Tale of Two Fanboys:

      Fanboy 1:
      I’m tired of Intel holding back AMD’s technological innovation by denying DDR4 to the world!
      DDR4 saves power and has huge headroom for future growth, but Intel is denying it to us because they know that AMD would gain a permanent lead with DDR4!
      Everyone knows that AMD has been ready to put DDR4 parts on the market since at least 2006!
      Only AMD innovates by pushing new technologies.

      Fanboy 2:
      I’m tired of Intel *forcing* us to abandon our perfectly good DDR3 systems to upgrade.. AT GUNPOINT.. to these lousy DDR4 boards. You can’t even use two DIMMS in a channel anymore because Intel is EVIL, and this DDR4 crap is more expensive to boot!
      AMD realizes there is no advantage to DDR4, and they are just trying to save all of us from Intel’s evil monopoly practices. If this DDR4 ever becomes useful, then AMD will upgrade at the *right* time instead of forcing DDR4 down our throats.
      Only AMD innovates by letting us keep perfectly good working technologies.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 6 years ago

    INTERESTING, In line with that when will quad or for that matter triple channel memmory get adopted by mainstream intel processors?

      • auxy
      • 6 years ago

      No real need or reason for it.

      The reason LGA1366 had triple-channel memory is that they anticipated the hex-core CPUs would need it, and they were right — and in fact, with twelve threads, you can even saturate triple-channel. That’s why the workstation/enthusiast platform went to quad-channel afterward.

      However, a quad-core CPU rarely needs more than dual-channel, and since it’s cheaper and simpler to produce that way, that’s what they went with. (´ー`)┌

    • LukeCWM
    • 6 years ago

    It’s a two-socket motherboard, so it’s got to be Xeon, right? Is Xeon in the habit of having demonstration models working several years in advance? I think Haswell-EP is a very safe guess.

    I forget how these things work: Xeon gets the same generation a year late, but they are also the first to get new, advanced features? So if we see this in servers in 2014, then we should see it in desktops in 2015? I’m gathering flip-mode’s expectation is a good one?

      • willmore
      • 6 years ago

      Generally (crazy extrapoliton from very limited data) it goes: consumer CPUs lag Xeon parts in features, but not in clock speeds. Consumer chipsets lead in features, but not scale–fewer, but faster ports.

    • Firestarter
    • 6 years ago

    psh, who needs 384GB? 16GB ought to be enough for anybody!

      • ClickClick5
      • 6 years ago

      BUT………ALL MY FIREFOX TABS!

        • jihadjoe
        • 6 years ago

        pr0n ftw. Driving technology since forever.

        • dashbarron
        • 6 years ago

        ’bout 325~ last night 🙂

        –Which I made add, doesn’t seem to matter with the recent slew of bugs in FireFox releases which brings the program to a grinding hault every few minutes with certain types of video playback and regular use. It has nothing to do with the tabs.

      • My Johnson
      • 6 years ago

      I thought 8GB’s was enough until I try to do actual work on my personal PC and then my needs soar. But then I looked up the price for 16GB’s. $100+. Bummer.

        • Farting Bob
        • 6 years ago

        If you are doing actual work that needs more than 8GB, the cost of 8 more GB’s is easily worth the investment. If you are just using it for personal use and don’t mind the occasional slow down for the few times you might need more than 8GB then it’s not an issue right now.

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      +1 Sarcasm

      384GiB is still not enough for certain applications (running dozens of VMs, rendering massive amounts of data, handling a massive database).

      It is still not enough for Crysis.

      • Pax-UX
      • 6 years ago

      This is for VM

    • flip-mode
    • 6 years ago

    Some questions from someone who hasn’t been paying attention:

    Will Intel put out a Haswell chipset that supports DDR4?

    What benefits will DDR4 have over DDR3?

    Edit:
    So is it safe to assume DDR4 on mainstream desktops will happen closer to 2015?

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      [quote<]Will Intel put out a Haswell chipset that supports DDR4?[/quote<] Intel will never put out a chipset that supports DDR4. (Because it's not up to the chipset to support memory.. the IMCs on Haswell-E/Xeon Haswell and later Skylake models, however....) [quote<]What benefits will DDR4 have over DDR3?[/quote<] None at first other than somewhat reduced power consumption. Over time DDR4 will ramp in speed to much higher speeds than what even heavily overclocked DDR3 reaches. If this sounds exactly like the transition from DDR1 --> DDR2, it's because it is. If this sounds exactly like the transition from DDR2 --> DDR3, it's because it is.

        • flip-mode
        • 6 years ago

        Wow, my brain farted on the chipset question! LOL.

      • brucethemoose
      • 6 years ago

      Apparently yes, but it probably won’t be a socket 1150 CPU.

      More than anything else, DDR4 benefits bandwidth starved servers. I don’t know the exact specs for DDR4, but the increased latency could actually be a bad thing for typical user workloads.

        • Airmantharp
        • 6 years ago

        I’ve been wondering what the latency picture is looking like. In reality, memory latency hasn’t budged much in the last decade- access delays (CAS and all that) have increased in number of clocks, but higher clockspeeds have decreased the length of time each clock cycle takes, leaving actual latency measured in nanoseconds roughly in the same ballpark.

        GDDR5 breaks this trend for much higher bandwidth, but it’s also a QDR solution; what exactly is DDR4, compared to DDR3?

          • Geonerd
          • 6 years ago

          AFAIK, DDR4 doesn’t squeeze more data into each clock cycle, it just allows higher frequencies.

          • Wirko
          • 6 years ago

          See [url=http://www.cadence.com/Community/blogs/ii/archive/2011/11/17/arm-techcon-paper-why-dram-latency-is-getting-worse.aspx<]here[/url<] for some bad predictions. And then there's the hybrid memory cube, with claims of extremely high bandwidth and no data about latency. Given that there's still DRAM at its core, can we expect it to have substantially lower latency in nanoseconds?

        • Krogoth
        • 6 years ago

        DDR4 isn’t about bandwidth. It is about being easier to make higher density modules. High-end servers benefit far more from having more memory capacity barring cost. DDR4 makes 256GiB or more not being as painful to the IT budget (so that PHB-types are more likely to approve).

      • superjawes
      • 6 years ago

      From Wikipedia…

      [quote<]Its primary benefits compared to DDR3 include faster clock frequencies and data transfer rates (2133–4266 MT/s compared to DDR3's 800 to 2133 MT/s) and lower voltage (1.05–1.2 V for DDR4,[7] compared to 1.2–1.65 V for DDR3) with current remaining the same.[9] DDR4 also anticipates a change in topology. It discards the multiple DIMMs per channel approach in favor of a point-to-point topology where each channel in the memory controller is connected to a single DIMM Switched memory banks are also an anticipated option for servers.[/quote<] Faster, less power, and more channels (if I read that correctly), which could result in much higher bandwidth overall.

        • willmore
        • 6 years ago

        And this is what is confusing with this chip. We see 12 DIMMS one one CPU. If this really is a point to point connection, then this is quite a step up from the four memory busses we have with Xeon and -EP chips right now.

        Or is there some other magic going on here? You could have a very fancy memory bus controller in the CPU that dynamically adjusts equalization and other signal drive parameters based on which DIMM it’s currently talking to. I’d think that would add some latency to the DIMM to DIMM switch.

        Clearly, there’s going to be some very interesting slides when Haswell-EP and the next generation of Xeon chips hit the market.

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 6 years ago

      Hey, flip. I’m 2013. Welcome 🙂

      • Krogoth
      • 6 years ago

      You realize that support for memory type is tied directly to CPU itself? Chipsets no longer matter here. Newer chipsets just handle all of the PCH stuff (SATA, extra PCIe lanes, USB, Thunderbolt, Ethernet etc).

      I’m willing to bet that DDR4 is going to need a completely new socket from Intel, unless Socket 1150 has build-in DDR4 support from the start.

      • bcronce
      • 6 years ago

      “What benefits will DDR4 have over DDR3?”

      25% more bandwidth, 33% less total power. Spec allows it to get down to 1.0v, which will save even more power in the future.

      This is important as smaller transistors use less voltage, so higher density memory tends to use lower voltages.

        • nanoflower
        • 6 years ago

        Less power is nice but how much does this power savings really add up to? Will it be enough to justify the higher price we are likely to see for DDR4 memory for at least the next few years? I think not.. Still, it’s nice to see progress being made, even if it is slow.

          • Waco
          • 6 years ago

          For home users? Probably not. When you have 5 petabytes of RAM in a single machine? Yes. Very much yes.

    • kcarlile
    • 6 years ago

    Hmm. So how many memory controllers on Haswell-EP, then, 6?

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 6 years ago

      7. The 7th is for redundancy.

    • chuckula
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]That raises the question: what exactly is the mystery CPU driving 192GB of DDR4 memory at 2133 MT/s in this demo box? [/quote<] Yeah... mysterious CPU in a box running DDR4 at an official Intel conference. Why is this even a question? (It's an overclocked Cyrix 6x86.. duh!)

      • Farting Bob
      • 6 years ago

      My guess is a new Intel-defeating 24 core, 45w 5Ghz AMD CPU made on a 4nm process and cost $10 to buy.

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