Speedy servers with Intel's 18-core chips, DDR4 memory hit the market

Hardware makers are providing the building blocks for databases, ERP and analytics applications to run faster in data centers with new systems based on Intel’s latest Xeon E7 v3 chips.

Seventeen hardware makers have announced 45 systems running on Intel’s new chips, which have up to 18 CPU cores. Servers from big names like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo have more memory capacity, internal bandwidth and storage capacity to speed up applications.

The new Intel Xeon chips, announced on Tuesday, provide more throughput and power-saving features than the Xeon E7 v2 chips that shipped last year. As a result, a task could be executed on fewer servers while consuming less power, which could help cut electric bills. Alternatively, system administrators could extract more performance from the same number of servers.

Most of the new servers have four sockets or more, and each socket is capable of supporting up to 1.5TB of memory. That is a new high for Intel’s server chips, and is particularly beneficial for in-memory applications.

The servers also support the new DDR4 memory, which sells at a premium but is faster and more power-efficient than the DDR3 memory widely used in servers today. The server memory slots are backwards compatible with the cheaper DDR3 memory.

The servers from Dell and HP are tuned to run applications like SAP HANA in-memory database applications, with software tweaks helping boost performance. Dell’s new four-socket PowerEdge R930—which could hold up to 72 processing cores and 6TB of memory—is 26 percent faster than its predecessor, the PowerEdge R920, according to SAP’s benchmarks. The price for Dell’s new server wasn’t immediately available.

HP’s new four-socket systems are also designed for databases like SAP HANA and Microsoft SQL Server. The headliner is the ProLiant DL580 Gen9 server, which starts at US$12,399. HP measured 39 percent faster Xeon E7 v3 processor performance compared to the older E7 v2 chips, and up to 16 percent faster performance of DDR4 memory compared to DDR3 DRAM. The server will ship in June.

Other new HP servers include the four-socket ProLiant DL560 Gen9 rack and ProLiant BL660c Gen9 blade servers, which are for generic workloads, such as Apache Hadoop distributed computing. With more memory channels and storage capacity, the servers are faster than single- and two-socket servers widely used in data centers for cloud hosting, Web hosting and other applications.

Lenovo also released mid-range to high-end servers. The System x X6 rack servers, including the four-socket System x3850 X6 and the eight-socket System x3950 X6, have modular blocks designed to make it easy to replace processors, memory and storage. By decoupling memory, storage and CPU, Lenovo hopes to make it easier and less expensive to upgrade servers without compromising on system performance. The new servers are up to 50 percent faster than older and comparable servers, Lenovo said. The new System x servers will ship on May 26 starting at $7,979.

Lenovo’s new server lineup also includes the Flex System X6 family of mostly pre-engineered systems with the hardware and software bundled closely in one unit. The systems include the four-socket Flex System x480 X6 and eight-socket Flex System x880 X6, which can be customized for databases and analytics. The Flex servers will ship on May 27 starting at $10,415.

IBM also offers Flex servers, but based on its homegrown Power chips, which are based on a different architecture than Intel’s x86 chips.

Intel’s new chips also have special features that applications can be programmed to tap into. One is TSX transactional memory, which can speed up and secure database transactions. The feature already exists on Intel’s latest Xeon E5 chips, but not the low-end E3 chips.

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