Intel Delivers Low-Power, Quad-Core Xeon Chips
Published: March 14, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Consider it two for flinching. On Monday, chip maker Intel rounded out its quad-core "Clovertown" Xeon 5300 processor line with two low-powered variants that burn considerably less electricity and generate a lot less heat than the initial Clovertown chips that Intel launched last November. The news comes just as Advanced Micro Devices has warned Wall Street that it will not make its numbers for the first quarter, and it has to wait patiently to deliver its technically better but not yet finished "Barcelona" quad-core Opteron Rev F chips.
Like IBM, Intel has been adding multiple chips to a single processor socket as a means of doubling up on core counts within a server or workstation. With the Clovertown Xeon 5300s, Intel is packing two of its "Woodcrest" Xeon 5100s side-by-side in a single chip package, creating what is sometimes called a quasi quad core in order to distinguish it from a chip that really puts four cores on a single die. Among the volume RISC, Itanium, and X64 chip makers, only Sun Microsystems is delivering a chip with more than two cores on a single die. Sun's "Niagara" Sparc T1 processor has eight four-threaded Sparc cores on a single chip, but these are relatively low performing (albeit very efficient) cores. IBM's Power5+ and Intel's "Montecito" Itanium 9000s are dual-core chips, and IBM is making quasi quads from the Power5+ while Intel has not opted to do that with the Montecitos. Although with IBM's dual-core Power6 chips only a few months away and the quad-core "Tukwila" Itaniums not expected until 2008, it might be a good idea to rethink this strategy and put two Montecitos in a single package, much as Intel has done with the Clovertowns on the X64 front.
With the true quad-core Barcelona Opteron chips due around June or July--if all goes well--all that AMD can do right now as Intel comes at it with low-powered Clovertowns is grin and bear it. And remind customers that some of the memory management, virtualization, and floating point performance improvements in the Barcelona chips will make them excel compared to the Clovertowns. None of this has much of an impact on customers who need to buy servers or workstations today. You buy what you can when you can, because there is always something better coming down the pike in IT Land.
The new Clovertowns are low-voltage variants of the stock Clovertown chips, which means that Intel has sorted through the bins at its factories and found the subset of chips coming off the line that can run at a lower voltage but at an acceptably high clock speed. The regular dual-core Woodcrest chips run at 1.21 volts and has an 80-watt thermal design point at 3 GHz, compared to 1.09 volts for the regular Clovertowns, which run at 2.33 GHz and have the same 80-watt TDP. Intel has not said what the voltage is on the two new Clovertown LV parts, but some of the power and heat savings comes from lower clock speeds and some comes from lower volts. It seems likely that the two new parts run at 1 volt or so.
The first new low-voltage Clovertown part is the L5320, which runs at 1.86 GHz and which includes 2 MB of L2 cache per core; it has a 1.067 GHz front side bus, which is shared by the two chips in the Clovertown package. The L5320 costs $519 in 1,000-unit quantities. The L5310 runs at a slower 1.6 GHz and otherwise has the same feature set. It costs $455 in 1,000-unit quantities. The other Clovertowns burn 80 watts in the normal range of clock speeds, and 120 watts for top-end performing parts. The two new parts are just versions of the E5320 and E5310 chips, which have an 80 watt TDP, that run at a lower voltage. The E5320 costs $690 when it was announced last summer, which just goes to show how Intel is keeping the pricing heat on AMD.
These new Clovertown chips, just like the prior ones, can plug right into any "Bensely" platform from Intel, which includes machines that were based on the short-lived "Dempsey" quasi dual-core chip from early 2006 and the Woodcrest true quad-core chip from the summer of last year. The Dempsey chips ran at a top speed of 3.73 GHz, but burned 130 watts; it also cost $851 in 1,000-unit quantities. The low-voltage Clovertowns will deliver about the same performance as this top-end Dempsey on applications that are amenable to threads, and do so with less than half the watts and at half the price.
Intel has come a long way in a year, and the market share statistics in 2007 will undoubtedly prove this out as the year progresses.
Intel, AMD Push and Pull for X64 Market Share
AMD: Native Quad Core Opteron Will Best Intel Quasi Quads
Intel Delivers More Quad-Core Server and PC Chips
AMD Creates Two-Socket Athlon FX Variant, Demos Quad-Core Opteron
Intel Delivers Quasi Quad Core Xeon 5300 Server Chips
Intel Previews Quad-Core Chips, Talks Up Massively Cored RISC
AMD Unveils Rev F Opterons, Prepares for Quad Cores in Mid-2007
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