Meet Intel's Grantley Platform
In addition to its new Haswell-EP-based CPUs, there's a lot more to Intel's Grantley platform. We were given the following quick reference guide, which covers the basics:
There are a number of evolutionary changes to account for, but perhaps the biggest is Grantley's memory support. Four generations of server platforms dating back to Nehalem-EP utilized DDR3 RAM, and we've seen efforts to further tweak that standard for lower power use or greater density. Registered DDR4 DIMMs successfully achieve those improvements, additionally increasing throughput per channel.
Servers are often loaded up with RAM to handle more VMs or even to expand the space available for in-memory storage applications like memcached or redis. This typically requires more DIMMs per memory channel, imposing penalties on the peak data rate you're able to hit. DDR4 is designed to accommodate more DIMMs in a configuration without the performance penalty suffered by DDR3. And because it operates on a lower input voltage than even DDR3L, energy efficiency is built-in to the spec.
Of course, memory support is a product of the CPU's integrated memory controller. But not all system functions are built into Intel's processors yet. You still need a platform controller hub for a lot of the peripheral connectivity and I/O. The Wellsburg PCH, much like the already-reviewed X99 Express, exposes 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports. That's a significant upgrade to the Xeon E5-2600 v1 and v2 platform, where the focus was on adding optional SAS connectivity. Intel is clearly taking a different tact to coincide with the introduction of its NVMe-based SSDs. We're plenty happy with expanded SATA support, which is great for low-cost SSDs and traditional mechanical disks. High-performance storage is moving to the PCIe bus.
Other features include six USB 3.0 ports and eight second-gen USB connectors, useful for faster KVM cart access and accelerated boot from an internal VMware ESXi USB key installation. Several of the platforms we've seen in the lab are USB 3.0-only, in fact. That's a significant change from previous generations limited to USB 2.0.
The CPUs still enable 40 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, divisible into a number of different link configurations. This is a common feature on processors in the -EP range. With faster networking in this generation and a renewed focus on PCIe-based flash storage, all of that connectivity should go to good use.
Later in this article, I'll cover how power consumption and distribution change with Haswell-EP. The key is that, again, voltage regulation is on-package, and P-state control is more granular. As we saw on the desktop, this results in low idle power use. But unlike Haswell in its mainstream form, Haswell-EP packs up to 4.5x as many execution cores and more than five times the last-level cache. And in dual-CPU arrays, the effects of power savings are doubled per machine.
At least in my opinion, the most exciting platform change involves networking, including the 40 GbE Fortville controller...