Xeon E7 v3 boasts Haswell cores, hybrid memory controller

Although Broadwell-based chips are already on the market and Skylake is rumored for next year, Intel's older Haswell microarchitecture is still working its way into new products. The latest is the Xeon E7 v3 series, which is designed for beefy servers with four or more sockets. Known in techie circles as Haswell-EX, this processor has loads of cores, gobs of cache, and a hybrid memory controller that supports both DDR3 and DDR4 memory.

Like the Xeon E5 v3 processor Scott reviewed last year, the E7 is available with up to 18 cores, 36 threads, and 45MB of last-level cache. While the E5 is limited to dual QPI links, the E7 offers three onboard interconnects, allowing it to power systems with a greater number of sockets. Four- and eight-socket systems will probably be the norm, but Intel indicates that the E7 can scale up to 32 sockets in certain configurations.

The old Xeon E7 v2 processor based on Ivy Bridge is capped at 15 cores, 30 threads, and 37.5MB of cache, making the new version a substantial upgrade on multiple fronts. Haswell-EX also brings support for AVX 2.0 and TSX instructions. You may recall that errata prompted Intel to disable TSX functionality in some Haswell and Broadwell parts, including the Xeon E5 v3. That issue seems to have been sorted out, because the E7 product documentation and press release both highlight TSX support.

One of the most intriguing elements of the Xeon E7 v3 processor is its memory controller, which works with both DDR3 and DDR4 memory. We don't have too many details on this component, but Intel says quad-socket systems can support up to 6TB of RAM, while eight-socket rigs can take 12TB. Server builders should appreciate having the flexibility to select the memory type that best fits their needs.

The v3 family is spread across a range of Xeon X7-4400 and E7-8800 variants. The E7-4400 series offers up to 14 cores and 35MB of cache within a 115W thermal envelope, while the top E7-8800 options deliver the full-fat experience within a larger 165W TDP. If you have to ask about pricing, your pockets probably aren't deep enough. The cheapest model starts at over a grand, and the most expensive is nearly $7,200.

Comments closed
    • the
    • 7 years ago

    Even if TSMC and Samsung are shipping 14/16 nm FinFET designs this year, they won’t be large dies. The GPU manufacturers have learned the hard way that you don’t launch a big die on a brand new process. Always start with either the low end or midrange so that even with low yields, there is still going to be at least some product to sell and still make money while doing so.

    Both AMD and nVidia launched their large die products roughly a year after their first 28 nm part. Intel’s tick tock plan has always been launching a new macroarchitecture a year after a process shrink.

    Intel still has roughly a full year lead on the other foundries.

    • blastdoor
    • 7 years ago

    So about a year after Core M came out.

    It will be interesting to see what Samsung and TSMC are shipping at the same time.

    • the
    • 7 years ago

    The reason why Haswell-EX is still on 22 nm is due to the extra validation done for its big iron server focus. This chip has the TSX fix which looks to have delayed its launch by a full quarter. I wonder if Broadwell-EX chips will arrive in early 2016 following Intel’s original cadence.

    If you want to see what Intel can ramp up quickly, which this 8 billion transistor chip called Knights Landing built on 14 nm that’ll ship this year:
    [url<]http://www.theplatform.net/2015/03/25/more-knights-landing-xeon-phi-secrets-unveiled/[/url<]

    • yuhong
    • 7 years ago

    Used to be true, but then they came out with the Xeon E5-4600. The funny thing is even that has a relatively large price premium.

    • blastdoor
    • 7 years ago

    funny how people make fun of TSMC for lagging on process for GPUs, but when Intel tries to make a CPU with as many transistors as a GPU, it turns out Intel’s process lead isn’t so big after all.

    • Waco
    • 7 years ago

    Depends on how many servers you’re buying. 🙂

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    If you’ve priced out the full cost of the servers that really use these chips then I have two words for you that describe the CPU price perfectly: rounding error.

    • blastdoor
    • 7 years ago

    Are there less expensive Xeons than these for 4 socket systems?

    edit —

    looks to me like the answer is “no” — you have to buy the E7 if you want a 4 socket system.

    A memory refresh from Wikipedia also reveals that Opteron supported up to 8 sockets nearly 10 years ago.

    The top of the line Opteron 850, supporting 8 sockets and introduced in 2004, cost $1514. [url<]http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/K8/AMD-Opteron%20850%20-%20OSA850CEP5AV%20(OSA850AVWOF).html[/url<] IIRC, Intel didn't have anything x86 that could compete with the Opteron at that time (and the competitiveness of Itanium was debatable). Seems to me that there's a huge difference between a world in which Intel has a real competitor and a world in which it doesn't .

    • Shambles
    • 7 years ago

    Xeons don’t lag behind. They’ve released lock step with the desktop parts for at least the last two generations. Intel cares a lot more about the server market than the desktop market. We’re meaningless to them, as you can see from the meagre desktop improvements over the last decade.

    • lycium
    • 7 years ago

    Yup, had the same thought 🙂 Evidently people hate the idea / old meme though.

    • UberGerbil
    • 7 years ago

    Back then there was a whole raft of server chips from the likes of Sun and IBM and HP (Itanium!) that existed in a price and performance tier well above anything any x86 chip reached. That’s where the top of Xeon is now; any x86 chip above 4 sockets back then required exotic glue logic and extra expensive engineering, and even then it didn’t approach the performance of the really big iron. And that big iron was expensive. That’s the field these chips are now playing in, and that’s the price comparison you should be making.

    • UberGerbil
    • 7 years ago

    There’s validation, too. High core counts and sustained traffic can flush out bugs that never manifest on tamer designs. The motherboards (and daughter boards, be it blades or memory cards or whatever) have to get designed and tested too. None of that has been a significant problem for Intel in a while but the OEMs who are their customers nevertheless need the assurance there isn’t anything lurking, and that takes time. The longer timeframe also gives them the benefit of any fixes that showed up for the desktop chips, as is the case with TSX here.

    And there’s the market cadence, which is just different for servers. The OEMs want a decent return on their investment in new model lines, and it’s hard to get that when you’re churning out new products every year; meanwhile the F500 customers for these things fully depreciate them and they tend to swap things out en-masse, so for the most part they’re not interested in incremental improvements every 6-12 months either.

    • blastdoor
    • 7 years ago

    $7,200…. yikes. Not much competition at the high end of the server market, that’s for sure. Does anybody remember what the most expensive Xeon was back when the Opteron was a competitive product?

    • UberGerbil
    • 7 years ago

    Am I the only person who saw “Hybrid” and immediately thought Hybrid Memory Cube and clicked on the link with heightened, but soon-extinguished, interest?

    • Freon
    • 7 years ago

    Skylake is coming to the desktop under the i5 and i7 brands, not the Xeon brand, hopefully some time this year.

    Xeons tend to lag a bit on architecture, thus this is still about Haswell moving into the Xeon brand. I guess it takes extra engineering time to cram all the cores together and wait for yields to improve for the massive die sizes they have? 8-18 cores has to be a massive chip… Plus they have a ton more cache.

    • WhatMeWorry
    • 7 years ago

    I thought Skylake was rumored to come out later this year? Or are we talking about 4 cores?

    • the
    • 7 years ago

    The Xeon E5 v2 went to 12 cores. The irony here is that the 12 core E5 v2 and the 15 core E7 v2 actually used the same die but in different packages. And for another layer of irony, both those packages were incompatible LGA 2011 variants.

    • the
    • 7 years ago

    The reason why the E7 v3’s work with both DDR3 and DDR4? It doesn’t support either [i<]natively[/i<]. These chips use a memory buffer chip that abstracts the actual memory type from the main memory controller on the CPU die. This is similar to what FB-DIMMs did though the buffer is on the motherboard instead of the DIMM itself. For the big iron servers, this also allows a mix of both DDR3 and DDR4 to be installed in the same system simultaneously as the DIMMs slots were typically put on daughter cards with the buffer chip. Also the 32 socket support isn't [i<]native[/i<] either. Going that high requires a node controller that'll act as a QPI traffic cop between clusters of sockets. Even the more common, usually dual socket focused E5 series can be scaled to such high socket counts via these node controllers ([url=https://www.sgi.com/products/servers/uv/uv_2000_20.html<]SGI offers such a system, up to 256 sockets[/url<]). By themselves, these E7 chips can only go up to 8 sockets.

    • yuhong
    • 7 years ago

    Reminds me of when they had to skip Sandy Bridge-EX though.

    • Flapdrol
    • 7 years ago

    Easily

    [url<]https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/gg615082.aspx#architecture[/url<] A core2duo already gets ~3 fps in crysis at 800x600.

    • DarkUltra
    • 7 years ago

    *chuckle* …oh sorry did I misspell something,?

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    It’s all good man, I can barely spell my name some days!

    • brucethemoose
    • 7 years ago

    With software rendering, it could!

    • lycium
    • 7 years ago

    32 sockets with 18 cores / 36 threads each… I bet it could run Crysis.

    • brucethemoose
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<] The old Xeon E7 v2 processor based on Ivy Bridge is capped at 12 cores, 24 threads [/quote<] [url<]http://ark.intel.com/products/75258[/url<] [quote<] Intel® Xeon® Processor E7-8890 v2 # of Cores: 15 [/quote<]

    • Dissonance
    • 7 years ago

    You know I’ve been writing about too much desktop and mobile stuff when…

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Xeon E7 v3 boasts Broadwell cores,[/quote<] Hi Geoff. I'm afraid that I've found a [i<]purported[/i<] error in that title. I'd like to file a bug report.

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