Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Intel Reimagines the Data Center

Intel disclosed key details on new data center processors based on its 22-nanometer (nm) technology and outlined key features of a rack scale architecture for mega data centers.  The announcements, which were made at the annual Intel developer forum in Beijing this week, represent what the company is calling a re-imagining of the data center.

Here are highlights of the announcements:

Building on its introduction of the  Atom S1200 processor for data center servers, Intel revealed three new low-power SoCs in the same line and coming in 2013:

  • Atom S12x9 product family for storage -- these offer up to 40 lanes of integrated PCIe 2.0, or physical paths between I/O and the processor and provide the capacity so that multiple devices can be handled more efficiently. Of the 40 lanes of PCIe 2.0, there are 24 Root Port lanes and 16 Non Transparent Bridge lanes, for failover support.
  • Avoton -- the second generation of 64-bit Intel Atom processor for microservers. Built on Intel’s 22nm process technology and new microarchitecture "Silvermont," Avoton will feature an integrated Ethernet controller and is expected to deliver significant improvements in performance-per-watt. Avoton is now being sampled to customers and the first systems are expected to be available in the second half of 2013.
  • Rangeley -- this Intel Atom processor based SoC is targeted at network and communications infrastructure. Rangeley aims to provide an energy-efficient mechanism for processing communication workloads and is targeted for entry level to mid-range routers, switches and security appliances. Rangeley is targeted to be available in second half of 2013.

For greater performance, Intel will introduce the Xeon processor E3 1200 v3 product family based on Haswell architecture, and the next-generation Xeon processor E5 family based on the 22nm manufacturing process, and the Xeon processor E7 family featuring triple the memory capacity – up to 12 Terabytes (TB) in an eight-socket node for data-demanding, transaction-intensive workloads such as in-memory databases and real-time business analytics.

Rack Scale Architecture

Intel is also working on a reference design for rack scale architecture for hyper-scale data centers. The reference design will be modular at the subsystem level (storage, CPU, memory, network) and is being designed to provision and refresh or logically allocate resources based on application specific workload requirements.  Intel plans to leverage Silicon Photonics technology to enable complete disaggregation of racks to drive optimal flexibility for large scale data centers.

Intel said its sees the evolution of rack design happening in three phases:

  • Physical Aggregation. All non-critical sheet metal removed and key components such as power supplies and fans taken out of individual servers and consolidated at the rack level. Savings are expected due to higher levels of efficiency and lower costs by reducing the number of fans and power supplies.
  • Fabric Integration and Storage Virtualization. Disaggregate and separate out the storage from compute systems with direct attached storage, and achieve higher utilization through storage virtualization. The compute and network fabric is the key technology that is enabling disaggregation of storage without impact to performance. Intel Silicon
  • Photonics interconnects will enable higher speed connections between various computing resources within the rack, thus enabling the eventual disaggregation of server, memory, network and storage within the rack. 
Ultimately, Intel sees the industry moving to subsystem disaggregation, where processing, memory and I/O will be completely separated into modular subsystems.

At the event, the company also discussed progress with the new Intel Atom processor Z2580 ("Clover Trail+") for smartphones and the Intel Atom Processor Z2760 ("Clover Trail") for tablets, both of which are helping to usher in a range of new devices and user experiences.  Intel's quad-core Atom SoC ("Bay Trail") will be the most powerful Atom processor to-date, doubling the computing performance of Intel's current-generation tablet offering1. Scheduled for holiday 2013 tablets, "Bay Trail" will help enable new experiences and designs as thin as 8mm that have all-day battery life and weeks of standby.

Another Atom SoC, codenamed "Merrifield," which is scheduled to ship to customers by the end of this year, targets smartphones.

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