New family of Intel Xeon Scalable Processors enable software defined data infrastructures (SDDI) and SDDC

July 11, 2017 – 2:19 pm

Intel Xeon Scalable Processors SDDI and SDDC

server storage I/O data infrastructure trends

Today Intel announced a new family of Xeon Scalable Processors (aka Purely) that for some workloads Intel claims to be on average of 1.65x faster than their predecessors. Note your real improvement will vary based on workload, configuration, benchmark testing, type of processor, memory, and many other server storage I/O performance considerations.

Intel Scalable Xeon Processors
Image via

In general the new Intel Xeon Scalable Processors enable legacy and software defined data infrastructures (SDDI), along with software defined data centers (SDDC), cloud and other environments to support expanding workloads more efficiently as well as effectively (e.g. boosting productivity).

Data Infrastructures and workloads

Some target application and environment workloads Intel is positioning these new processors for includes among others:

  • Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI), advanced analytics, deep learning and big data
  • Networking including software defined network (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV)
  • Cloud and Virtualization including Azure Stack, Docker and Kubernetes containers, Hyper-V, KVM, OpenStack VMware vSphere, KVM among others
  • High Performance Compute (HPC) and High Productivity Compute (e.g. the other HPC)
  • Storage including legacy and emerging software defined storage software deployed as appliances, systems or server less deployment modes.

Features of the new Intel Xeon Scalable Processors include:

  • New core micro architecture with interconnects and on die memory controllers
  • Sockets (processors) scalable up to 28 cores
  • Improved networking performance using Quick Assist and Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK)
  • Leverages Intel Quick Assist Technology for CPU offload of compute intensive functions including I/O networking, security, AI, ML, big data, analytics and storage functions. Functions that benefit from Quick Assist include cryptography, encryption, authentication, cipher operations, digital signatures, key exchange, loss less data compression and data footprint reduction along with data at rest encryption (DARE).
  • Optane Non-Volatile Dual Inline Memory Module (NVDIMM) for storage class memory (SCM) also referred to by some as Persistent Memory (PM), not to be confused with Physical Machine (PM).
  • Supports Advanced Vector Extensions 512  (AVX-512) for HPC and other workloads
  • Optional Omni-Path Fabrics in addition to 1/10Gb Ethernet among other I/O options
  • Six memory channels supporting up to 6TB of RDIMM with multi socket systems
  • From two to eight  sockets per node (system)
  • Systems support PCIe 3.x (some supporting x4 based M.2 interconnects)

Note that exact speeds, feeds, slots and watts will vary by specific server model and vendor options. Also note that some server system solutions have two or more nodes (e.g. two or more real servers) in a single package not to be confused with two or more sockets per node (system or motherboard). Refer to the where to learn more section below for links to Intel benchmarks and other resources.

Software Defined Data Infrastructures, SDDC, SDX and SDDI

What About Speeds and Feeds

Watch for and check out the various Intel partners who have or will be announcing their new server compute platforms based on Intel Xeon Scalable Processors. Each of the different vendors will have various speeds and feeds options that build on the fundamental Intel Xeon Scalable Processor capabilities.

For example Dell EMC announced their 14G server platforms at the May 2017 Dell EMC World event with details to follow (e.g. after the Intel announcements).

Some things to keep in mind include the amount of DDR4 DRAM (or Optane NVDIMM) will vary by vendors server platform configuration, motherboards, several sockets and DIMM slots. Also keep in mind the differences between registered (e.g. buffered RDIMM) that give good capacity and great performance, and load reduced DIMM (LRDIMM) that have great capacity and ok performance.

Various nvme options

What about NVMe

It’s there as these systems like previous Intel models support NVMe devices via PCIe 3.x slots, and some vendor solutions also supporting M.2 x4 physical interconnects as well.

server storageIO flash and SSD
Image via Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials (CRC)

Note that Broadcom formerly known as Avago and LSI recently announced PCIe based RAID and adapter cards that support NVMe attached devices in addition to SAS and SATA.

server storage data infrastructure sddi

What About Intel and Storage

In case you have not connected the dots yet, the Intel Xeon Scalable Processor based server (aka compute) systems are also a fundamental platform for storage systems, services, solutions, appliances along with tin-wrapped software.

What this means is that the Intel Xeon Scalable Processors based systems can be used for deploying legacy as well as new and emerging software-defined storage software solutions. This also means that the Intel platforms can be used to support SDDC, SDDI, SDX, SDI as well as other forms of legacy and software-defined data infrastructures along with cloud, virtual, container, server less among other modes of deployment.

Intel SSDSolid State Devices (SSDs) are very much still a relevant and continue to be enhanced technology even with the emerging 3D XPoint and Optane (also available via Amazon in M.2) in the wings.

server memory evolution
Via Intel and Micron (3D XPoint launch)

Keep in mind that NAND flash-based technologies were announced almost 20 years ago (1999), and are still evolving. 3D XPoint announced two years ago, along with other emerging storage class memories (SCM), non-volatile memory (NVM) and persistent memory (PM) devices are part of the future as is 3D NAND (among others). Speaking of 3D XPoint and Optane, Intel had announcements about that in the past as well.

Where To Learn More

Learn more about Intel Xeon Scalable Processors along with related technology, trends, tools, techniques and tips with the following links.

What This All Means

Some say the PC is dead and IMHO that depends on what you mean or define a PC as. For example if you refer to a PC generically to also include servers besides workstations or other devices, then they are alive. If however your view is that PCs are only workstations and client devices, then they are on the decline.

However if your view is that a PC is defined by the underlying processor such as Intel general purpose 64 bit x86 derivative (or descendent) then they are very much alive. Just as older generations of PCs leveraging general purpose Intel based x86 (and its predecessors) processors were deployed for many uses, so to are today’s line of Xeon (among others) processors.

Even with the increase of ARM, GPU and other specialized processors, as well as ASIC and FPGAs for offloads, the role of general purpose processors continues to increase, as does the technology evolution around. Even with so called server less architectures, they still need underlying compute server platforms for running software, which also includes software defined storage, software defined networks, SDDC, SDDI, SDX, IoT among others.

Overall this is a good set of announcements by Intel and what we can also expect to be a flood of enhancements from their partners who will use the new family of Intel Xeon Scalable Processors in their products to enable software defined data infrastructures (SDDI) and SDDC.

Ok, nuff said (for now…).


Greg Schulz – Multi-year Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, VMware vExpert (and vSAN). Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press), Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and twitter @storageio. Watch for the spring 2017 release of his new book "Software-Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials" (CRC Press).

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