updated 03:45 pm EDT, Tue March 30, 2010
Xeon 7500 can handle 1TB memory, 256 chips
Intel this afternoon sought to cement its grip on the very high end of computers with its first eight-core processor, the Xeon 7500. The two extra cores give it even more performance in highly parallel situations -- up to 16 program threads at once with Hyperthreading -- and the design itself is unique at Intel in the sheer amount of scaling compared to the outgoing 7400. A four-processor server can handle as much as 1TB of memory, and a single computer can include as many as 256 discrete processors.
Every chip has a new recovery technology known as Machine Check Architecture that can work with the OS or virtual machine software to avoid bugs that would crash or otherwise halt a system.
The flagship of the mix is the X7560, a 2.26GHz chip with 24MB of cache and support for Turbo Boost to overclock the processor when one or more cores aren't needed. It uses no more power than a current-generation high-end Xeon, at 130W, and can sit in groups of up to eight processors on a single mainboard; it costs $3,692 per chip in bulk. The rest of the eight-core line ranges from a low-power 1.86GHz model ($3,157) that uses 95W of power to 2GHz regular versions that support either two sockets ($2,461) or eight ($2,729).
Some four- and six-core Xeon 6500 and 7500 models are also being launched today and start with a $744 1.73GHz quad-core model without Turbo Boost, moving up to a 2GHz six-core chip that brings the Turbo Boost feature back for $1,980.
All of the processors should be available today and will find their way into servers almost immediately. Known customers so far include supercomputer heavyweights such as Cray and NEC as well as regular server builders like Dell and HP.
The news follows just a day after AMD launched a 12-core Opteron that potentially gives it an edge in sheer parallelism for some servers, although memory and processor scaling may sometimes play in Intel's favor.