Intel launches energy-efficient quad-core Xeon chips

New Xeon processors use 45nm manufacturing process first used with Penryn chips

Intel Corp. today unveiled two low-voltage, 45-nanometer server processors.

The quad-core Xeon L5400 Series chips run at 50 watts -- or 12.5 watts per core -- but their performance still reaches the 2.5-GHz mark. Intel is making the chips using the 45nm manufacturing process that it first used with its Penryn family of chips, which were unveiled last November.

The new chips deliver the same performance as their predecessors, the Xeon 5400 Series, but use 40% less power, according to a company spokesman.

Energy-efficient processors are gaining more attention as companies increasingly look to go green -- in order to save both power and money. For companies with large data centers, the cost of electricity can sap a significant portion of the IT budget.

"There is a class of customer that is looking more to economically- or environmentally-friendly designs," said Stephen Thorne, a product line manager in Intel's server platform group. "And there also are customers who are trying to pack as much performance as possible into their data center."

Thorne noted that there has been a call for energy-efficient processors in blade configurations. "A lot of users have power constraints or physical constraints," he added. "Say you have a fixed space in Manhattan. You can't expand the space, but with lower-energy processors, you could pack more servers into a rack because each server is using less power."

In January, Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. disclosed that it was picking up speed on delivering its own energy-efficient quad-core chip, the 9100E, which reportedly uses one-third less power than AMD Phenom chips. The 9100E had been slated on in-house AMD road maps to ship in either the second or third quarter. The chip is now on the docket to be released this quarter.

And the clock is quickly ticking down on the first quarter. So if AMD's new chip is still on track, it should ship this week.

Intel reported that its new Xeon processors have a 50% larger cache than its previous-generation, low-voltage quad-core Xeon processors. They also have 12MB of on-die cache and dedicated 1333-MHz front-side buses.

Thorne said Intel was able to lower the power consumption on the new chips through a combination of using the 45nm manufacturing process, running them at a slightly slower speed and lowering the voltage across all the cores to parse out the reduction.

Vendors supporting the new Xeon chips include Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, IBM and NEC.

Intel also announced today that it expects to begin shipping its L5210 dual-core processor, which will boast a 40-watt rating, a clock speed of 3 GHz, a 6MB cache and a 1333-MHz front-side bus.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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