Sometimes, we chaw off added than we can chew. That was absolutely the case with this review. We’ve continued pushed, prodded, argued, and advocated for the association at Intel and AMD to assignment with us on reviews of their server CPUs. That’s about gone able-bodied in the accomplished few years, happily, but we accept additionally been alert of accretion our mission aloft our means. That has meant, for instance, crumbling opportunities to analysis 4P systems. Large, big-ticket servers are interesting, but testing them appropriately requires time, the appropriate hardware, and a adequately baddest set of actual big-ticket applications, abounding of which crave massive, proprietary abstracts sets. Reaching up into that articulation of the bazaar is no atomic undertaking.
Our instincts were confounded, however, aback Intel and Dell dangled a new chic of server in advanced of us, a array of average footfall amid the traditional, bargain 2P box and a abundant beefier, awfully added big-ticket 4P system. Testing it appropriately would be a bit of a challenge, sure, and it was array of an amplification of our mission. But wow, that was some absolutely air-conditioned hardware, and AMD seemed to accept article agnate in the works. Besides, we had some absorbing account about testing. The claiming would be intriguing, if annihilation else.
Thus we begin ourselves demography commitment of a Dell R810 server, a sleek, 2U box arranged with bifold octal-core Nehalem-EX processors, accompanying 1100W ability supplies, cloister SAS 6 Gbps adamantine drives, and a heart-stopping 128GB of RAM.
That was about a year ago, and the months that followed gave us an aberrant compensation of new GPU and CPU architectures and articles based on them—in added words, lots of things to review. We had added to analysis than we could handle, and in this R810 server, we had conceivably added computer than we could handle properly, too. Shamefully, the R810 went on the backburner time and afresh as added obligations intervened.
Fortunately, we’ve assuredly managed to complete our testing, and we’re appropriate in time for Intel’s advertisement of—ack!—a drop-in backup for the Nehalem-EX processor accepted as Westmere-EX. Rather than absolutely despairing, we’ve absitively to move advanced with our antecedent attending at the R810 and Nehalem-EX. If there’s acceptable interest, afterwards that, we’ll see about advance to the new processors and demography them for a spin, as well. Abundant of the arena we’ll awning today is basal for servers based on either CPU, aback they allotment the aforementioned adjustment architecture.
Nehalem-EX: The Ocho The capacity of Nehalem-EX silicon may be accustomed by now to abounding absorbed parties, but we’ll epitomize briefly because they are circuitous and absorbing abundant to accreditation added attention. As the name implies, the Nehalem-EX processor is based on the aforementioned basal CPU microarchitecture and 45-nm accomplishment action as its abate ancestors that allotment the Nehalem name. The aberration with the EX alternative has to do with scale, both in agreement of the processor silicon—the affair encompasses 2.3 billion transistors—and the adjustment architectonics that supports it.
Crammed into the EX are absolutely eight CPU cores and 24MB of L3 cache—enough elements that the processor’s architects absitively the simpler centralized communications adjustment in quad-core Nehalems wouldn’t suffice. Instead, they gave the EX an centralized arena bus, a high-speed, bidirectional advice aisle with stops for anniversary key basic of the chip. This arena is a precursor, incidentally, for the one Intel architects congenital into the newer Sandy Bridge architectonics to board assorted cores alongside an dent GPU.
Like all Nehalem chips, the EX has an dent anamnesis controller. In fact, the EX absolutely has a brace of anamnesis controllers, although the arrange are rather altered than in lower-end 2P Xeons. The EX alternation is advised to calibration to four or added sockets with actual ample anamnesis capacities, and the arduous cardinal of traces active out of anniversary atrium may impede that mission. Intel’s adjustment architects accept formed about that botheration by application alien Scalable Anamnesis Buffer (SMB) chips to allocution to the anamnesis modules.
Amid the EX atrium and anniversary SMB is a narrow, accelerated articulation accepted as a consecutive anamnesis interconnect, or SMI. The SMI and SMB acquiesce for college anamnesis capacities, at the amount of college admission latencies. In fact, this accomplished adjustment is based carefully on the FB-DIMM technology acclimated in earlier Xeons, which was somewhat abominable for the performance-versus-capacity tradeoff it required. One aberration actuality is that the SMB chips are congenital into the adjustment and army on the motherboard, so EX systems can use approved DDR3 RDIMMs. Addition difference, obviously, is the aishment of the front-side bus and its abeyant to act as a aqueduct at aerial amount levels. Intel claims the EX has a lower, adulate anamnesis admission cessation contour than the prior-generation Xeon X7400 series.
The Nehalem-EX has two SMI channels per anamnesis controller, and anniversary approach talks to an SMB chip. In turn, anniversary SMB communicates with two channels of DDR3 SDRAM clocked at a aiguille of 1066MHz. Anniversary anamnesis approach can abutment a brace of registered DIMMs.
Multiply all of those things out above four sockets, and the numbers get to be formidable. A distinct Nehalem-EX atrium can abutment up to 16 DIMMs. Aloof four channels of DDR3-1066 anamnesis per atrium could, in theory, crop up to 34 GB/s of anamnesis bandwidth, although some complicating factors like SMI aerial accept led Intel to affirmation a aiguille anamnesis bandwidth per atrium of 25 GB/s. (Real-world throughput will alter depending on the mix of reads and writes used.) Still, that’s potentially 100 GB/s of anamnesis bandwidth in a 4P configuration.
Like its Nehalem-EX brethren, the EX uses Intel’s point-to-point QuickPath Interconnect for advice amid the sockets. Anniversary CPU has four QPI articulation controllers onboard, authoritative accessible fully-connected 4P configurations like the one depicted in the diagram above. Glueless 8P configurations are additionally possible, as are college atrium counts with the aid of third-party bulge ambassador chips.
The I/O hub apparent aloft is a dent code-named Boxboro, and it’s basically a behemothic PCI Express switch, with 36 lanes of second-generation PCIe connectivity. These lanes can be configured in assorted ways: four PCIe x8 links additional an x4, nine x4 connections, or bifold x16s alongside two x2 links, for instance. If that’s not abundant I/O bandwidth, a 2P config may accept bifold IOH chips, while a 4P may accept as abounding as three. An eight-way, quad-IOH blueprint could accept up to 144 lanes of PCIe Gen2 bandwidth—again, amazing scale. Aback the Boxboro IOH is abundantly aloof for PCI Express, it connects to Intel’s allegiant ICH10 chip, which provides the blow of the system’s accepted I/O needs, including some first-generation PCIe lanes.
Not alone does the EX belvedere abide on a abundant above calibration than added Xeons, but it additionally includes some RAS (reliability, availability, and serviceability) appearance commonly begin alone in mainframes, high-end RISC systems, and Intel’s added alms in this segment, Itanium. These capabilities extend able-bodied aloft the acceptable absurdity accretion apparatus congenital into ECC DRAM. The EX’s recoverable apparatus analysis architectonics (MCA) allows for on-the-fly recoveries from contest that would be adverse in addition chic of hardware.
For example, in the accident of a DIMM failure, the adjustment could booty the bootless bore out of use while the firmware and OS would assignment calm to balance or restart any afflicted processes, after bringing the adjustment down. Eventually, a tech could accomplish a hot-swap backup of the bootless and abandoned module—all while the adjustment keeps running. (That aftermost bit sounds rather alarming to me. I’d abundant rather shut bottomward the afflicted adjustment and do the DIMM bandy during a aliment window, but conceivably I’m aloof too timid.)
By creating a new chic of 2P server based on Nehalem-EX, Intel and its ally are bringing these RAS appearance to a new amount point, forth with college anamnesis capacities.
Speaking of prices, don’t get your hopes up for an abnormally bargain date. The fastest Nehalem-EX processor is the Xeon X7560, which is the one we’ve activated central the Dell R810. The X7560 has eight cores, 16 accoutrement (via Hyper-Threading/SMT), and a absence alarm acceleration of 2.26GHz. If there’s allowance larboard aural its 130W thermal envelope, Intel’s Turbo Boost affection will acquiesce the X7560’s alarm abundance to ambit up to 2.66GHz. A distinct Xeon X7560 will currently set you aback $3,692. In the ambience of the absolute adjustment price, that’s about a steal.
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