Intel expects behemoth 144-core Sierra Forest chips to boost per-rack performance by 2.7X at lower power

5th Generation Xeon Emerald Rapids CPU
5th Generation Xeon Emerald Rapids CPU (Image credit: Intel)

When Intel's Xeon processors -- codenamed Sierra Forest -- were formally announced last year, the company even disclosed their maximum number of 288 cores, but Intel has never revealed its performance expectations. At this year's Mobile World Congress, Intel disclosed that its upcoming 144-core CPU would increase per-rack performance by 2.7X compared to its 2021 platform while consuming around 30% less power. 

Intel's Xeon 'Sierra Forest' processors come with up to 288 e-cores are designed primarily for cloud data centers as well as various infrastructure workloads, such as handling 5G core networks, that can benefit from high core count and relatively low per-core power consumption. 

Intel says that when compared to a dual-socket 2021 Xeon Scalable platform with a total of 48 cores (6252N), machines based on the 144-core Xeon 'Sierra Forest' processors (a total of 288 cores per dual-socket server) will offer up to 2.7X higher performance per rack for 5G core workloads while consuming less power, up to 30% when used with Intel Infrastructure Power Manager (IPM) Software while maintaining performance networks. Intel says that its choice of comparing two 24-core processors against two 24-core models is to highlight a widely deployed telco config. 

Intel's IPM software seems to be as important as the 144-core Sierra Forest processor itself, as it is designed to help 5G core operators reduce CPU power usage without compromising key performance metrics by using the built-in telemetry of Intel's Xeon processors. The program is said to be compatible with existing and future Xeon-based network infrastructure, so it should work on a variety of platforms. 

Without any doubt, a 2.7 times performance increase over a three-year-old platform is an impressive improvement, but we do have to take the extra cores into account.

Intel did not disclose which workloads were impacted. 5G core workloads encompass various tasks and processes crucial for the functionality of a 5G telecommunications system's core network. These workloads include managing data movement, controlling network functions, creating separate virtual networks, and ensuring that different services get the right level of quality, such as fast data speeds, low delay, and connecting many devices. 

In addition to disclosing some of the advantages of its Sierra Forest processors due in 2024, Intel also said that it would launch its Granite Rapids-D CPUs in 2025. These Granite Rapids-D processors will address edge computing, networking and communications, and storage servers, among other workloads.

Edit 2/28/24 8:40am PT: Clarified Intel's test configuration. 

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • bit_user
    Headline: Intel expects behemoth 144-core Sierra Forest chips to boost per-rack performance by 2.7X at lower power
    Wrong.

    Try reading your own source, maybe??
    "Intel Xeon next-gen processors, code-named Sierra Forest, launching later this year will offer up to 288 cores and help operators recognize a 2.7x performance per rack improvement – an industry leading performance per rack for 5G Core workloads."

    Notes: Based on estimated architectural projections as of Feb. 14, 2024, vs. prior-generation platforms as of 2021. Your results may vary.
    Based on Intel analysis and publicly available data as of Feb. 20, 2024.
    Source: https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/newsroom/news/mwc-2024-next-gen-xeon-improvement-5g-core.html
    This clearly suggests they're talking about the 288-core version delivering the 2.7 speedup! "Prior-generation as of 2021" means they're probably referring to Ice Lake.

    That puts 106 cores at just below one 40-core (80-thread) Ice Lake, which is very plausible, since each E-core is said to have similar IPC to a single-threaded Skylake, while Ice Lake delivered real IPC gains relative to Skylake and could run at slightly higher frequencies than Sierra Forest. Not to mention hyper-threading.

    In contrast, the notion that their 144-core CPU is 2.7x as fast as an 80-thread Ice Lake-SP, just isn't credible.

    @JarredWaltonGPU can you check me on this?
    Reply
  • PaulAlcorn
    bit_user said:
    Wrong.

    Try reading your own source, maybe??
    "Intel Xeon next-gen processors, code-named Sierra Forest, launching later this year will offer up to 288 cores and help operators recognize a 2.7x performance per rack improvement – an industry leading performance per rack for 5G Core workloads."Notes:Based on estimated architectural projections as of Feb. 14, 2024, vs. prior-generation platforms as of 2021. Your results may vary.
    Based on Intel analysis and publicly available data as of Feb. 20, 2024.Source: https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/newsroom/news/mwc-2024-next-gen-xeon-improvement-5g-core.html
    This clearly suggests they're talking about the 288-core version delivering the 2.7 speedup! "Prior-generation as of 2021" means they're probably referring to Ice Lake.

    That puts 106 cores at just below one 40-core (80-thread) Ice Lake, which is very plausible, since each E-core is said to have similar IPC to a single-threaded Skylake, while Ice Lake delivered real IPC gains relative to Skylake and could run at slightly higher frequencies than Sierra Forest. Not to mention hyper-threading.

    In contrast, the notion that their 144-core CPU is 2.7x as fast as an 80-thread Ice Lake-SP, just isn't credible.

    @JarredWaltonGPU can you check me on this?
    Thanks for the feedback, as always! The source doesn't say they used a 288-core, as noted in the text, and they didn't. Here is the response from Intel on the test setup:

    "Here’s the claim: (2.7x improvement) This claim is comparing SRF 2S 144C vs widely deployed Telco config of 6252N 2S. So 144-core."

    I added some text in the article to represent the additional info. We'll see if INtel will also clear up the workload info, too.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    bit_user said:
    In contrast, the notion that their 144-core CPU is 2.7x as fast as an 80-thread Ice Lake-SP, just isn't credible.
    It's marketing but also true, the key word here is low(er) power, and we know that at very low power the e-cores will be a lot more efficient than the p-cores.
    Especially since they are not saying "as fast" as you are saying, they say performance per rack at low power.

    At least that's what I think.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    PaulAlcorn said:
    Thanks for the feedback, as always!
    Thanks for checking with Intel. This is very helpful, due to the way they worded that sentence.

    PaulAlcorn said:
    The source doesn't say they used a 288-core, as noted in the text, and they didn't. Here is the response from Intel on the test setup:

    "Here’s the claim: (2.7x improvement) This claim is comparing SRF 2S 144C vs widely deployed Telco config of 6252N 2S. So 144-core."
    Okay, so we should consider the match-up of 144-core Sierra Forrest vs. 24-core Cascade Lake. That would be six times as many cores and three times as many threads. So, a 2.7x speedup indeed seems plausible (since IPC is roughly similar and scaling is usually sub-linear).
    https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/sku/193951/intel-xeon-gold-6252n-processor-35-75m-cache-2-30-ghz/specifications.html
    PaulAlcorn said:
    I added some text in the article to represent the additional info. We'll see if INtel will also clear up the workload info, too.
    Thanks! Two observations about that...

    First, this part:
    "... will offer up to 2.7X higher performance per rack ..."
    Seems like it should be "... will offer up to 2.7X as much performance per rack ...".

    Second, the sentence:
    "Intel says that its choice of comparing two 24-core processors against two 24-core models is to highlight a widely deployed telco config."
    Did you perhaps mean to say "... two 24-core processors against two 144-core models ..." ?

    While I'm nit-picking:
    "a 2.7 times performance increase over a three-year-old platform is an impressive improvement"
    Cascade Lake began launching in Q2 of 2019. It's essentially the same microarchitecture as the Skylake-SP series, that launched on virtually the same process node, back in Q3 2017. So, I guess the real question is whether Sierra Forest is about 5 or 7 years newer than what they're comparing it to?
    : D
    Reply