I am excited for 2010, and a bit misty about 2009 ending. Not to imply 2009 didn’t have issues, but it was a bang-up ( http://www.answers.com/topic/bang-up ) year for Intel’s server products and technologies. 2009 was a transformational year. Why? In a word, Nehalem. Intel Xeon 5500 was the biggest jump in performance and efficiency in a single processor generation I have ever seen.
To put some perspective on this, in the four generations before the Xeon 5500, Intel increased two-socket Xeon performance almost 600%. To do that required an improvement of about 80% per year. Not a shabby achievement and it was a good reason to move to the next generation of Intel Xeon servers.
Looking at these four years before Nehalem, a cynical person could argue that a lot of Xeon’s performance gain was simply an exercise in adding cores – not that core addition is simple. And truly, a fair chunk of that 80% can be attributed to more cores per processor. What is interesting, and profound, is Nehalem’s leap in performance. With the same number of cores as the Xeon 5400, operating at a slower clock speed and with less processor cache, the Xeon 5500 delivered a jump of about 2.5 times over the 5400. This established an Intel lead in two socket performance and efficiency.
Re-reading what I just wrote, it sounds a bit like a puff piece, but I really mean it, Nehalem made 2009 incredible year. Intel had its challenges this last decade, but they were not delivery of server products and technology in 2009. In 2009 Xeon rocked.
Now back to my excitement about 2010. Take all that goodness of the Xeon 5500 in two sockets, inject the silicon equivalent of steroids, and you get a sense for the Nehalem EX four+ socket processor. This monster is positioned to change forever what it means to be a “high end Xeon server”. With up to eight cores per socket, and designs of four and eight sockets ( that would be 64 Nehalem cores, 128 threads ) there are not very many jobs in the enterprise that won’t fit into on one of these platforms. The addition of mission critical reliability features harden this platform to a level never before seen in the x86 market. This is a machine that can do it all, scale to the biggest enterprise jobs, with reliability features for mission critical applications. 2010 should be very interesting indeed.
Happy New Year!