Haswell-EP Evolves The Server And Workstation
The night Chris Angelini was writing his review of the Core i7-4770K for Tom's Hardware and I was doing the same, we both reached similar conclusions: Haswell on the desktop is not a big deal. But Haswell-EP is a completely different story. Intel uses its advanced manufacturing to enable more cores, more cache, and a redesigned memory controller able to support DDR4. All of that comes together to yield a big step up compared to Ivy Bridge-EP. When you consider that these CPUs replace parts in servers with four to eight cores, the potential gains are substantial. Delivering twice the performance in a similar form factor makes it easy for any business to at least consider consolidating their hardware infrastructure.
When it comes to power consumption, we already know that Haswell was designed to service the mobile space. This has some favorable implications in the server world too. Of course, the difference is that Haswell-EP-based CPUs are much larger (and multiplied in a dual-socket configuration), so all gains are amplified.
In terms of performance per core, unless your software is optimized to exploit AVX 2.0, Haswell's biggest benefits come from the architecture's inherent IPC tweaks. Where Haswell-EP really shines is its higher core counts that help scale performance accordingly in well-parallelized workloads.
DDR4 memory support is perhaps the most next-generation aspect of Intel's new Xeon E5-2600 v3 processors. In time, we will likely see higher data rates, increased density, and potentially lower-power versions of the standard. Unlike DDR3, DDR4 is still supply-constrained, so new servers are going to be priced higher until memory vendors catch up. Right now, the market is split. Most consumer devices are tied to DDR3; Haswell-E/EP is the first design pushing DDR4. That'll change slowly. But for now, there are quantifiable power and performance benefits to justify the eventual adoption of a what currently appears to be a ridiculously expensive technology.
Reflecting on the press day that Intel hosted to introduce Haswell-EP, higher core counts, DDR4, and advanced ISA support were the most obvious platform changes. But the company's Fortville adapters are arguably even more exciting to me. The doors opened by a low-power controller capable of two 40 GbE interfaces or eight 10 Gb links cannot be ignored. I have been using Mellanox ConnectX-3 VPI adapters for quite some time in 40 Gb Ethernet mode. But the power consumption benefits of Intel's technology compelled me to go out and buy a new 40 Gb Ethernet switch.
Truly, this is the march of progress. More IPC throughput, a greater number of cores, more memory, and beefier I/O to exploit the platform's bolstered data handling capabilities translate to further consolidation of workloads. Intel is clearly driving towards a software-defined vision and takes a major step toward that goal with its Xeon E5-2600 v3 introduction. Then again, the way Intel presents its strategy addresses a more complete datacenter solution. Much like HP, Intel no longer pitches the Xeon as a new, faster processor on its own (even if it is). Instead, the company has a holistic goal for driving compute, storage, and networking performance over the next few years. Haswell-EP is the showcase for that.