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By | Timothy Prickett Morgan 4th March 2010 15:11

Intel preps new Xeons for March 16 launch

AMD does a 48-core giveaway

The word on the street is that chip maker Intel will finally get around to launching its new Xeon processors on March 16, and AMD will follow up with its new Opterons sometime near the end of the month. Let the marketeering begin.

It is unclear at this time if Intel will launch both the six-core "Westmere-EP" processors for two-socket servers (presumably to be called the Xeon 5600) and its high-end, eight-core "Nehalem-EX" processors for four-socket and larger boxes (also known as "Beckton" and probably to be known as the Xeon 7600) on the same day. All we can see for certain at this point is that that's the day server makers are prepping for their launch blitzes. Intel could launch the Westmere-EPs and save the Nehalem-EX powder to try to make some noise when the twelve-core "Magny-Cours" Opteron 6100s come out at the end of the month.

Whether Intel intends it or not, there will be some overlap between the Westmere-EPs and the Nehalem-EXs. As IBM gave a preview of its eX5 chipset and related server designs, and even though Intel clearly meant for this chip to be used in four-socket and larger servers, at least two vendors (one is IBM and the other is Silicon Graphics) have bent the chip to suit their own needs, making two-socket designs out of the chip.

IBM's eX5 chipset allows multiple two-socket blade or rack servers to be glued together into a single four-way SMP and broken back apart on the fly (a feature called FlexNode) as well as for a memory expansion chassis to be plugged into the SMP (known as Max5). SGI is taking the extra ports and bandwidth of the Nehalem-EX chips and using it to hook 128 blades into a shared memory, 2D torus configuration.

It stands to reason that other server makers will also do clever things with the Nehalem-EX chips as well.

The Westmere-EPs are a simpler matter: They simply plug into existing Nehalem-EP iron, which is only a year old, and offer about 50 per cent more oomph. There is more, as The Register reported a month ago. The Westmere-EPs have native instructions for processing AES encryption burned into their 1.17 billion transistors, and their on-chip DDR3 memory controllers support low-voltage as well as standard voltage main memory.

With AMD having to wait until late in the month to launch its Opteron 6100s, it has to do something to make a little noise. One of the company's channel partners put a Tyan motherboard and four of the Opteron 6100s up for sale on eBay a few weeks ago, and AMD is going to go one better.

In his blog, John Fruehe, director of product marketing for server and workstation products at AMD, announced a contest whereby if you come up with a clever use for a 48-core server and submit it to AMD, the company will send the geek who comes up with the best idea a Tyan S8812 four-socket motherboard, which has eight empty DIMM sockets but which is populated with four twelve-core Opteron 6174 processors running at 2.2 GHz. AMD will also toss in a license to Windows Server 2008. The whole shebang has a retail price of $8,189, according to AMD.

To enter the contest, you have to write a 500-word essay, write a 500-word blog, or submit a 3-minute YouTube video describing what you would do with a 48-core machine.

Here's mine: I am a homebrewer and I also like to cook my family and friends breakfast. So I want to convert the four-socket machine into a four-burner grill for making buckwheat pancakes and bacon in the morning and for brewing up ales in the afternoon. I'll use an internet connection to donate all the spare cycles to the World Community Grid for do-gooder projects. Oh, and of course, I will let El Reg log in remotely so they can play Crysis with it. So I'll make it a dual-boot Windows 7-Windows Server 2008 machine. ®

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