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Intel releases quad-core Tigerton processor

Intel plans to unveil a version of its Xeon processor on Wednesday that’s designed for high-end servers with multiple processors — setting the stage for a showdown with rival Advanced Micro Devices’s upcoming quad-core Barcelona chip.

The Xeon 7300 chips, called Tigerton, are the first quad-core processors from Intel designed to be used in servers with four or more processors, a relatively small but lucrative segment of the server market. Previously, the Xeon processor for this segment of the market had two cores, despite the availability of quad-core Xeon chips for single-processor and two-way servers.

The new chips offer significantly better performance compared to their predecessors, Intel’s Xeon 5300 chips, said Adesh Gupta, regional platform architecture manager at Intel Asia-Pacific’s Server Platforms Group.

“Across the spectrum of different applications, we’re seeing really, really good performance,” Gupta said.

Benchmarks run by Intel showed significant gains for many enterprise applications, including SAP AG’s ERP (enterprise resource planning) software, Gupta said. The 7300 series chips can handle roughly 82 percent more ERP users and 92 percent more database transactions than the 5300 chips, he said.

The 7300 is part of the Caneland chip package, which also includes Intel’s 7300 chipset, known as Clarksboro. The new chipset has four 1,066MHz interconnects that are linked to an individual processor, helping reduce latency between the processors and main memory.

Caneland is the last release expected from Intel before AMD announces the availability of its Barcelona server chips on Sept. 10. Barcelona is widely expected to offer significant performance increases over AMD’s existing dual-core server chips, and should mean tighter competition with Intel in the server space.

Intel will initially offer six versions of Tigerton. At the top of the range is the X7350, a 2.93GHz chip designed with 8MB of shared on-chip cache and a thermal design power (TDP) of 130 watts. TDP is the highest sustainable level of power for applications that Intel expects to be run on the chip, and the number describes how much heat a system must be able to dissipate from the chip.

Intel is also offering several Xeon 7300 chips with a TDP of 80 watts. The E7340 runs at 2.4GHz and offers 8MB of shared on-chip cache. The E7330 also runs at 2.4GHz, but has 6MB of cache. The E7320 and E7310 both have 4MB of shared cache and run at clock speeds of 2.13GHz and 1.6GHz, respectively.

Intel will also release a 50-watt version that runs at 1.86GHz. The L7345 has 8MB of shared on-chip cache and is designed for blade servers and high-density rack servers.

Two dual-core versions of the Tigerton chip, the E7220 and E7210, will also be available, running at speeds of 2.93GHz and 2.4GHz with a TDP of 80 watts. Both chips have a shared on-chip cache of 8MB and are designed for high-performance computing applications.

Tigerton’s improved performance doesn’t come cheap. The processors are priced from US$856 to $2,301 per chip in 1,000-unit quantities, a standard measure of processor pricing.

The 7300 will also be the last server chip announced by Intel, before its upcoming Penryn chips are made available later this year. Made using a 45-nanometer process that will allow more cache to be put on each chip, the first Penryn server chips are expected to be released in November.

Those chips are intended for use in single-processor and two-way servers. The Penryn server chip for multiple-processor servers is called Dunnington and will not be available until late 2008, Gupta said.

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