Intel's Xeon roadmap for 2016 leaks

For the server lines, Broadwell will rule 2016. Skylake comes in 2017.

The good ship SS Intel has sprung a few leaks regarding its 2016 and beyond Xeon plans, and if all of this plays out, it shows Intel continues to execute on a steady, incremental roadmap that has guided it for the past decade.

Intel's M.O. has been to release new core designs for desktops and mobile first, then bring that same architecture to its Xeon server line a year or so later. Companies are slower to replace servers than desktops, and the Xeon has many features and functions not found in the desktop product, so they take their time with the server products.

Intel has three Xeon types. The E3 is for high-end desktops and single socket servers. The E5 is for a wide range of servers, from single to four-socket, both energy efficient and high performance. E5 has probably the broadest range of processors of the family. Finally, the E7 is used in high-end servers with four to eight sockets. The E7 has essentially taken over for the dead-in-the-water Itanium as it has the most mission critical functions of any CPU from Intel.

Then there's the Xeon Phi, the co-processor used in high performance computing (HPC) and supercomputing. A major refresh of the Phi is in the works.

CPU World has what it says are the details on the release schedule for all four processors.

The Xeon E3-1200 v5 series for single-socket workstations is planned for Q4 2015. The processors will be a part of a new Greenlow platform with a new chipset. This CPU will be the only one built on the Skylake microarchitecture for now. CPU World said that also in Q4, the company will expand the Xeon D family of server chips with an SoC design meant for microservers with a few more products.

The Xeon E5 server processors based on the Broadwell-EP design will be released in the first quarter of 2016. The two processors, the Xeon E5-1600 v4 and E5-2600 v4, are for single- and dual-socket systems, respectively. The E5-2600 v4 processors will have up to 22 cores with HyperThreading (for 44 threads) and support for DDR4-2400 memory. The E5-1600 v4 will have up to 8 cores with HyperThreading. Both chips will be compatible with existing Grantley-EP platform and C610 series chipset.

The Xeon E5-4600 v4 series for four-socket servers will be launched in Q2 2016. These chips will also be based on the Broadwell design and their features are said to be the same as the two-socket chip.

Also in the second quarter of 2016, Intel will release the high-end Xeon E7-4800 v4 and E7-8800 v4 chips under the Broadwell-EX banner. These chips will come with 24 cores plus HyperThreading and support for four channels of DDR4 memory per CPU. They will be compatible with existing Brickland platform, meaning you can upgrade the processors on current servers.

Finally, the Xeon Phi x200, otherwise known as "Knights Landing," will be available in Q3 2016.

Intel, as is custom, would not comment on rumors regarding unannounced products.

While Grantley and Brickland will carry Intel through 2016 and into 2017, a new platform based on Skylake will replace both will come in 2017, covering both the E5 and E7 lines. As it turns out, the details leaked back in May from an Intel employee in Poland who spoke at an HPC conference.

The Intel slides speak of the Skylake "Purley" platform coming in 2017, which will cover two-socket, four-socket, and eight-socket and more platforms. Up to now, Intel has kept the E5 and E7 separate, but it looks like the platform is being unified. These chips will have a 'v5' after their name to distinguish them from the Broadwell generation with 'v4.'

The Purley generation of chips will have 28 cores with HyperThreading, support six channels of DDR4 memory per CPU compared to four with the Broadwell-EP/EX generation and 48 lanes of PCI Express 3 compared with 32 lanes in Broadwell-EX. It will also have the 512-bit AVX vector processing unit found in the Xeon Phi, which should do wonders for HPC projects.

But the big change will be the appearance of Intel's Omnipath Architecture in the CPU. Omnipath is a next-generation fabric from Intel designed to replace its TrueScale Infiniband adapters to offer 100Gb/sec of performance at extremely low latency. It will make its debut in the Knight's Landing processor but will eventually find its way into PCI Express cards, switches and, it seems, processors.

One of the Intel slides claims Purley will be the "Biggest platform advancement since Nehalem" due to a new memory architecture, integrated fabric and optional integrated accelerators. That's a big boast but looking at the specs on the few slides still floating around, it's no surprise that the Skylake Xeons are coming two years after the desktop Skylake chips. This is going to be a major overhaul of the server platform and if it delivers will really boost server performance, from a departmental server to cloud servers. So they have a lot of work to do.

This story, "Intel's Xeon roadmap for 2016 leaks" was originally published by ITworld.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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