Intel Xeon E7 v4 family blends high performance and high density

Intel is flexing its big guns with its Xeon E7 v4 series. With up to 24 cores and 60 MB of L3 cache per chip, these Broadwell-EX CPUs represent the largest chips crafted using that microarchitecture.

The new E7s are more or less an even larger version of the Xeon E5 v4 series we talked about two months ago. They're built on the same 14nm process, using fundamentally the same Broadwell CPU cores that debuted in the original Core M back in late 2014 (although these chips are a far cry from a 4.5W tablet CPU). For now, the series comprises eleven processors: four processors in the E7-4800 v4 family and seven processors in the E7-8800 v4 family.

For those unfamiliar with the nomenclature, the E7-4800 v4 chips support four-socket configurations, while the E7-8800 v4 family supports eight-socket setups. The E7-4800s "only" go up to 16 cores, while the top-end model of the family, the E7-8890 v4, sports 24 cores and 60MB of last-level cache. Core counts range from two dozen all the way down to just 4 cores on the E7-8893 v4—which still has the full 60MB of cache. The new chips will drop right into existing E7 v3 systems.

Clock rates in the series (aside from the quad-core E7-8893 v4) vary between 2 GHz to 2.4 GHz base, and 3GHz to 3.5GHz Turbo speeds. Overall, that's similar to the Xeon E7 v3 series, which is impressive given that Intel has managed to pack as many as six more cores into the same power budget. TDP on the new Xeons starts at 115W and ranges up to 165W on the top-end.

Arguably the biggest news with this launch is that per-node memory capacity has doubled versus the E7 v3 family, to 3TB per socket. This brings the total amount of memory supported in an 8-socket system to 24TB. Achieving that configuration requires the use of three-dimensionally-stacked load-reduced DIMMs (3DS LRDIMM), which are newly-supported on Broadwell-EX. Intel says the new processors are designed for configurations up to 256 sockets, which nets 768TB of RAM in theory. 

Hardware this heavy is decidedly not for the mass market. Intel is targeting this series of Xeons at enterprise-level real-time analytics and big data, applications that can make use of the massive memory capacity and monstrous multi-core performance. The press materials make direct comparisons to IBM's Power8 series, and claim 1.4x performance and ten times better performance per dollar versus Big Blue's offering. According to Intel, the new chips are already available in 64-socket configurations from OEMs.

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