Intel announces Nehalem processor aimed at storage, communications

New Jasper Forest chip can save up to 27 watts over other Xeon chips

Intel Corp. today announced it will ship an enhanced version of its dual-processing Nehalem Xeon chip aimed specifically at the data storage and communications market with the ability to natively create RAID and is integrated with PCI Express (PCIe).

The processors, due out in early 2010, are aimed at applications such as ultra-dense blades, IPTV, VoIP, network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SAN).

Intel first debuted its Nehalem-based Xeon microprocessor in April.

The new Jasper Forest processors are capable of configuring storage as a RAID 5 or 6, protecting against single- or dual-disk failure, respectively.

"Nehalem cores are quite powerful, but customers still want to be able to offload storage functions to a core, especially when you get down into two-core and single core versions of processors, really simplifies the architecture," said Seth Bobroff, manager of Intel's Server Platform Group - Storage.

Intel said the enhanced processor lowers system power consumption by 27 watts when compared to the Intel Xeon 5500 series and it integrates two Jasper Forest processors with 16 PCIe Generation 2.0 lanes each and is paired with the Intel 3420 chipset platform controller hub. This integration of the I/O hub via PCIe enables significant power and space savings, resulting in one of the highest performance-per-watt Intel Xeon chips ever.

The processors, which come in single or quad-core models, will offer a bridging functionality that allows multiple systems to connect over a PCIe link, removing the need for an external PCIe switch.

Jasper Forest provides a scalable option to system designers with a single-core, 23-watt processor to a quad-core, 85-watt processor using the same socket.

The chips will also protect against data in case of a power failure with a function called Integrated Asynchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory Self-Refresh memory. The feature automatically detects a power failure as it's happening and enables allows memory controller sequences to finish and forces the system memory to a self refresh before shutting down.

Bobroff said that in terms of work load consolidation, the new Jasper Forest chip can natively handle storage management processing functions such as data deduplication, data snap shots, storage virtualization and any basic storage management requirements.

"All the control and management aspects of storage management systems and with RAID being integrated into a CPU can simplify hardware and software design," he said. "There's no hardware acceleration for algorithms like we have here."

The processor is also suited to support the Storage Bridge Bay specification, which is currently being developed as a way to plug control boards directly into storage arrays, allowing for a denser architecture. Today, storage controllers require a separate blade slot.

The processors will be offered with 7-year lifecycle support.

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