Intel's Six-core Chip Is Set for Release

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Intel Corp. is expected to release its six-core Xeon 7400 chip Monday, just as VMware Inc.'s big annual show begins in Las Vegas. And the timing is no coincidence.

Intel's chip is aimed at users seeking a consolidation and virtualization server platform, analysts say. Moving multiple virtual machines (VMs) to a six-core chip will improve management of virtual as well as physical systems. Consolidating physical servers to a single, presumably energy efficient system, may help users tight on data center space.

Intel isn't alone in picking VMware's conference to release its chip. Over the next week, vendors will be making numerous hardware announcements all designed with virtualization in mind. As virtualization use expands in data centers, so does the need for server hardware with added processing capability, memory and networking connections.

Vendors will announce over the next week products tuned for virtualization, integration with virtualization platforms, and new services to support deployment.

Dell Inc., for instance, today announced new PowerEdge blade servers, including the M905 four socket, dual- or quad-core Advance Micro Devices Inc., chips, it says can support 66 virtual machines. The system can support Citrix XenServer, VMware and Microsoft's Hyper-V. The company announced new storage and services as well.

In describing Intel's six-core chip, code-named Dunnington, at the Intel Developers Forum last month, Pat Gelsinger, Intel executive vice president, cited a number of workloads for it, including database, ERP, Java-based and virtualization.

AMD is also working on a six-core chip, code-named Istanbul, which is due out in the second half of next year.

Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64 in Saratoga, Calif., said the six-core system is a niche product intended for large applications such as such as transaction-oriented workloads and databases that already use multithreaded environments and virtualization.

The six-core Xeon was built on a single piece of silicon, unlike Intel's quad-core chips which are built from two dual-core chips. As a result of the improvements in Dunnington, Brookwood said it handles caching much better, improving performance. He called it "the best multiple core chip that Intel has introduced to date."

With six cores, Brookwood said users can consolidate more VMs in one physical server, and being able to do so improves the management of the VMs. The risk is that if that physical server should fail for any reason, it can affect lots of people, Brookwood said.

The increased number of cores not only lend themselves to managing more workloads, but six core systems will also take up less space in a data center and use less power, said Rich Partridge, an analyst at Ideas International Ltd in Rye Brook, N.Y. For some users, "having a consolidated server that is more efficiently managed is very attractive," he said.

Partridge also said Intel is seeking to appeal to users who have typically turned to Unix and RISC-based systems to operate large workloads. But he also said the target audience for this server isn't users who want to run one workload across six cores, but those who want to manage multiple apps across a hypervisor.

This story, "Intel's Six-core Chip Is Set for Release" was originally published by Computerworld.

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