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Ever find yourself in a new location staring hopelessly at a map, wondering where you are?  Then to make matters worse, you call someone on your cell phone and can’t describe where you are so they can help? I think we’ve all been there more than once…


Since the Intel Xeon® 5500 processors launched in March, I’ve been getting a bunch of questions (including from the Ask An Expert community [] in the Server Room) about DDR3 memory and how best to configure your server platforms to optimize performance.  Many times, folks are having a hard time just getting the conversation started, so here are a couple of tips to get you going.  The good thing is that DDR3 memory picks up where DDR2 memory leaves off in terms of speed, so you know you’ll be moving forward!


  1. Figure out how much memory you need.  With multi-core CPUs now mainstream in servers, you need enough memory to keep these compute engines fed.  One metric you might look at is “GB per CPU core” or “GB per socket” for your existing servers, and then project your memory requirements from there.


  1. Start with DDR3 1066 memory, as that will deliver a good balance of memory performance and capacity. 


ð        If you need more bandwidth (and willing to give up some capacity), use DDR3 1333

ð        If you need maximum capacity (and willing to give up some bandwidth), use DDR3 800


  1. Match your CPU to your memory speed because the faster memory does require a faster processor.  Check out page 11 of the product brief for the quick reference table.


  1. Wherever possible, fill up as many memory channels as possible, and populate all channels evenly (same type, size and number of DIMMs). 


ð        Most two-socket Xeon® 5500 platforms will have a total of 6 memory channels, so aligning your memory requirements to a multiple of 6 GB will optimize memory performance for most application environments.  

ð        However, you can mix/match memory types if your requirements call for something that is not a multiple of 6.


  1. For Server application environments, always go with ECC supported memory.  Decide between Registered (RDIMM) and Unbuffered DIMMs with ECC (UDIMM ECC).


ð        RDIMM provide greatest flexibility across DIMM sizes and availability

ð        UDIMM ECC provide a lower cost alternative if you are using 1 GB or 2 GB DIMMs



You will still want to check with your system vendor on the specifics, such as memory configurations and DIMM types and options supported for a given server, but hopefully this helps you pointed in the right direction.


If you are still lost, ask me a question on this blog or Ask An Expert in the Server Room.


My name is Steve Thorne, and this is my first blog post in The Server Room. I’m the product line manager for the Intel Xeon processor 5000 family, and I’m based out of our Hillsboro, Oregon facility. I’ve been looking forward to this blog post for quite some time, since I’ve been meeting with a wide variety of customers over the past few weeks.



It’s been just over a month since we introduced the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series (the processor formerly known as “Nehalem-EP”). We are certainly pleased with the response from the industry at this point. Below you will see some of my observations about what has transpired over the first 30 days of release. At the same time, I invite you to share some of your stories about recent installations of the Xeon 5500. Where is it being used? What kind of environments are you using it in? What kind of improvements have you observed in your deployments?


The industry response has been extremely encouraging to me. Our marketing teams spent more than three years diligently preparing for the successful introduction. Some of my observations from the first month include:


·         The list of vendors that support the Xeon 5500 continues to grow. We started with over 70 system manufacturers on March 30, 2009. And on April 14, 2009, Sun Microsystems introduced a new line of x64 blade servers, rack servers and workstations powered by the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series. Of particular interest is the Sun Blade X6275 server module. You can find more info at:


·         I attended our launch event in Santa Clara on March 30, 2009. While at the event, I was pleasantly surprised by the adulation from the customers who were in attendance. In particular, our friends in the Digital Content Creation (DCC) industry are eager to apply the capabilities of the Xeon 5500 for movie special effects and animated features. Being a father of three school age children, I’ve always been fond of our products’ role in the moviemaking process. It’s fun to take your kids to the theater and show them a concrete example of how these incredibly complex processors are used to generate chuckles and special effects in movies ranging from “Cars” to “Monsters vs. Aliens.”


·         Positive recognition has been accorded to the Xeon 5500 from a wide variety of independent press reviewers and articles. A recent internet search revealed almost 875 news references. Recently, George Ou of DailyTech published an interesting article titled “Server roundup: Intel “Nehalem” Xeon versus AMD “Shanghai” Opteron”. You can read the entire article at:


·         On May 4, 2009 two independent financial analysts upgraded Intel Corp. stock. Both analysts attributed part of their positive outlook to the introduction and ramp of Xeon 5500 servers.


·         On April 8, 2009 the new Xeon 5500 was a centerpiece of our IDF event in Beijing. In his enterprise key note, Pat Gelsinger said the “Nehalem” microarchitecture has received worldwide acclaim.


·         Customer deployments are underway at leading data centers around the globe – particularly in High Performance Computing (HPC) applications. The HPC accounts encompass university research labs, commercial research and development and large scale clusters. These HPC customers are pushing the outer limits of scientific discovery and innovation, and the best examples are yet to come!


Personally, I was proud to be a part of the introduction of the Xeon 5500. There is a strong sense of satisfaction when the silicon is deployed in real-world environments. And in case you hadn’t heard, we are busy getting ready for the next addition to the Xeon family, codenamed “Westmere-EP.” We expect this new 32nm processor to be socket and pin-compatible with the Xeon 5500, and it will stretch the processor to support six individual CPU cores per socket. Stay tuned for this release in 2010!



Ah, the good old days.... It was normal to have a discussion with a friend or coworker member about something like, "We just bought a 1.2 GHz Pentium III server, it runs circles around that 500 MHz system we bought a few years back."  Everyone nods in approval, all rightly assuming that of course bigger is better and frequency directly relates to performance.  Of course now things are more complex with multi-core, multi-threads, differing architectures (Power, SPARC, Xeon, Opteron).  Is a dual-core at Power6 4.7 GHz faster than a Xeon at 3 GHz? Is a 1.4 GHz processor with 8 threads/core better than a 2.8 GHz quad-core with 2 threads per core?  Tough to know off the top of your head these days.  One thing is clear, the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series is in the lead of performance per processor (regardless of the frequency of processors available today). 


In comparing the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series (Nehalem) architecture vs. what's available from IBM, Sun, and AMD today, you see a wide variety of cpu offerings with dramatically differing specs.  However, when you take a look at all these systems with a common number of cores, you can see the differences in per core performance on the industry standard benchmark SPECint_rate_base2006


# of cpus

Total Cores

Total Threads


SPECint_rate_base2006 Performance

Intel Xeon X5570




2.93 GHz


AMD Opteron 2393SE




3.1 GHz


IBM Power6




4.7 GHz


Sun UltraSPARC T2




1.4 GHz



What a contrast!  Chip designers today have multiple choices to make to eek out the most performance in today's server systems.  What we see today is that the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series balances all of these quite well.  Whereas others have much higher frequencies, it doesn't necessarily translate into more performance, while others have gone with a larger number of threads, but have low performance per thread.  Even processors that have similar specs have performance that is quite different.  Of course this is only one benchmark, however if you look at others you will find similar differences.   


What this means for most IT buyers is it's more difficult to understand how all the whiz-bang features the marketers throw at you and how they translate into value for you.  My advice, really understand what kind of workloads are improtant to you and focus on the performance from industry standard workloads that best represent those.  Remember that bigger numbers on the spec sheet aren't always better when it comes to server performance.  Check your figures!


SPECint_rate_base2006 performance data reference:

Intel® Xeon® processor X5570 based platform details

Fujitsu PRIMERGY* TX300 S5 server platform with two Intel Xeon processors X5570 2.93GHz, 8MB L3 cache, 6.4GT/s QPI, 48 GB memory (6x8 GB PC3-10600R, 2 rank, CL9-9-9, ECC), SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP2 x86_64 Kernel, Intel C++ Compiler for Linux32 and Linux64 version 11.0 build 20010131. SPECint_rate_base2006 score 240,

AMD Opteron 2393SE based platform details

Supermicro A+ Server 1021M-UR+B, AMD Opteron 2393 SE 3.1 GHz, 6MB L3 cache, 32 GB memory (8x4 GB DDR2-800, CL5, Reg, Dual-rank), SuSE Enterprise Server 10 (x86_64) SP1, Kernel, PGI Server Complete Version 7.2, PathScale Compiler Suite Version 3.2, SPECint_rate_base2006 score 122,

IBM Power6 based platform details

IBM system p570 (4.7 GHz, 8 core), 32MB L3 cache, 64 GB memory (32x2 GB)DDR2 667 MHz, IBM AIX5L V5.3, XL C/C++ Enterprise Edition Version 9.0 for AIX, SPECint_rate_base2006 score 206,

Sun UltraSPARC T2 plus based platform details

Sun SPARC Enterprise T5120, Sun UltraSPARC T2 1.417 GHz, 4MB L2 cache, 64 GB memory (16x4 GB), Solaris 10 8/07 (build s10s_u4wos_12b), Sun Studio 12 (patch build 2007/08/30), SPECint_rate_base2006 score 73.0,

Powerful Technology. Compelling Savings. Competitive Business.


Sharing others success is always really cool.  Here are my Top 10 success stories captured off of the intel customer references page located at   These leading IT shops from around the world have successfully taken advantage of new technology to transform their business .. saving money, boosting performance, driving productivity, and increased competitiveness into their business.


Did I miss your favorite? Want to nominate one for my Q2 list? or , just tell me your story – love to hear it





1.        Station Casinos virtualizes IT: To help control IT costs and ensure a robust customer experience, the IT group virtualized its infrastructure by running VMware* virtualization software on Dell PowerEdge* servers equipped with the Intel® Xeon® processor 5100 and 5400 series. So far, the company has eliminated almost 100 physical servers, avoided $190,000 in hardware acquisition costs, and accelerated the deployment of new services from weeks to hours. Virtualization enables Station Casinos to continue to deliver fun and relaxation while keeping the company successful even in tough economic times.


2.        Thomson Reuters:  With virtualization software running on rack servers based on the Intel Xeon processor 7300 series, the Thomson Reuters IT team is achieving a consolidation ratio of 18:1, reducing power requirements and freeing up space to absorb future growth. “We expect to increase that ratio to 25:1 when we move to the six-core Intel Xeon processor 7400 series in the near future,” says Crowhurst. The company’s power requirements are growing by nearly 20 percent every year as business expands. By optimizing the power and cooling strategy in its new data center and concentrating more blades in less space, the IT team was able to increase power density from 100 watts per square foot to 150 watts per square foot. As a result, there is less need for new data center construction, greatly reducing future environmental impacts.


3.        TRW: Achieved server consolidation ratio of 20:1, Increased CPU utilization from 40% to 85%, Reduced server deployment times from two weeks to one to two days, Cut total annual power and cooling costs by 70% to 80%, Saved 50% in annual datacenter cooling costs in Malaysia alone, Enabled one IT staff member to manage up to 50 servers, Saved 80% on the potential cost of additional UPS systems across the datacenters.


4.        Business & Decision Group: Power consumption was reduced by approximately 30 per cent compared to the previous generation of processors. The pure performance gains and lower energy consumption helps us deliver new solutions for our customers and will lead to a return-on-investment in less than one year. Could gain virtualization rates of 20:1 and with a processor load slightly below 55 percent.


5.        BMW: The Intel® Xeon® processor 7300 series performed 2.75-3X faster than the implemented RISC-based servers. Based on the Intel® Core™ mircoarchitecture, it is manufactured using new materials such as hafnium-based high-k gate dielectrics and metal gates, which significantly reduces electrical leakage.


6.        Carnegie: Reduces yearly energy costs by approximately SEK I million (USD 167,000) thanks to an estimated 1.1 million KWh annual saving arising from the server consolidation. Carnegie then replaced 100 of its legacy servers with 16 HP ProLiant 380 G5* servers powered by the Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor 5300 series and in the process created approximately 140 virtual servers. Thanks to the reduction in physical servers it also shelved its plans for extra cooling equipment while also making a SEK 10 million (USD 1.7 million) saving by avoiding the need to physically rebuild its data centre.


7.        Kelly Blue Book: Refreshing aging servers with new Dell* servers based on multi-core Intel® Xeon® processors enables Kelley Blue Book to accelerate performance of key applications by up to 50 percent, increasing business agility. Loading and processing business warehouse data was taking 16 to 20 hours each time - now it’s taking half that amount of time. Server consolidation ratios of up to 15 to 1 and reduced energy costs with the new hardware - saving KBB approximately $10,000 each month in power and cooling costs.


8.        PLAY: Processing all of PLAY’s historical roaming mobile transactions for 2008 to make the data available for the Optiprizer windows user application, takes just 44 minutes running on the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series, compared to 102 minutes on the Intel Xeon processor 5400 series. This represents a performance increase of 230 percent. Similarly, complex business intelligence tasks can now be performed twice as quickly.


9.        Yahoo:  Upgraded their Mission Critical Oracle database with Intel Xeon 7300 based servers. Yahoo is able to support a 1.4-petabyte database with 16 servers without any additional training or operating costs, while cutting the time to run the most demanding queries by 93% (20 hours to 73 minutes).


10.     Turtle Entertainment: Europe’s largest online gaming community supports its 875,000 members with Intel Xeon processor 7400 based servers.  Consolidation with larger servers reduces network, power/cooling and space costs and enabled a 35% reduction in TCO while improving their customers gaming experience (time it took to load a web page went from 177 milliseconds to 72 milliseconds).

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