May 2017 CPU Announcements - Intel Xeon Processor Scalable family and AMD EPYC for Datacenters, Intel 8th Gen Core i9 and AMD Ryzen Threadripper for Desktops

Posted by Paul Braren on Jun 3 2017 (updated on Jun 21 2017) in
  • CPU
  • ESXi
  • VMware
  • Throughout the month of May 2017, there were a lot of processor announcements from both Intel and AMD. This competition heating up is likely to help bring the cost down, as explained here and here, a good thing. But so far, Intel's response to increased pressure from AMD seems a bit messy.

    TinkerTry's focus will likely remain on the efficient and more affordable uniprocessor products intended for the datacenter, which also means they're most likely to be on the VCG, aka, the VMware Compatibility Guide. See Xeon D on the VCG here. Like any busy IT Professional with limits on spare time and budget, I rely on careful research to narrow my test plans to those products which make the most sense for the least cents.

    After you peruse the many article highlights I've collected below, you may also get the feeling that even with all the announcements below, the Xeon D family will likely continue to be the darling of the home virtualization lab enthusiast for years to come. Its 4 to 16 core variants began shipping about a year ago, in a variety of compact and efficient Mini ITX and Flex ITX SoC designs, at that sweet spot of market maturity right now, especially with the latest BIOS and IPMI firmware releases.

    The lower end Atom and Pentium and Xeon E3 products just don't quite meet up to the Xeon D's feature set, lacking the 10GbE support a vSAN guy like me requires, to keep that possibility of a performant multi-node All-Flash vSAN open. Yes, even if Xeon D models aren't likely to make it onto the vSAN Ready Node list. This reality is something I'm trying to change by the way, on a best-effort basis, which has so far been in vain.

    vSphere Client, showing EVC settings that dumb CPU features down to the oldest CPU in the cluster. The Broadwell Generation includes Xeon D.

    FYI, many Xeon D products from Supermicro like the 16-Core Xeon D 1587 actually boast a 7 year product cycle. The only significant competition on the horizon seems to be AMD's EPYC, with its clear datacenter focus. Too early to know for sure, with scant details known yet about street pricing, VMware ESXi 6.x support, efficiency, and availability. Remember, VMware is focused on the datacenter, and historically, this meant Intel Xeon and some high-end AMD CPUs, not the Intel Core products found in products like the Intel NUC.

    One thing is for sure. Once you read through the headlines below, you'll have a much better sense of what's coming up soon in CPU tech. There may also be an infusion of the successful Thunderbolt 3 / USB 3.1 / USB-C seen in many new premium laptops and workstations.




    Intel Xeon Processor Scalable Family - Intel Press Kit.
    Intel Xeon Processor Scalable Family

    Intel Xeon E3 and Xeon D Uniprocessor Platform


    AMD's Xeon competitor Naples is now called EPYC

    • Intel Facing Huge Challenge In Fast-Growing Market
      Mar 08 2017 by Aaron Pressman at Fortune|Tech

      ... AMD says its new Naples server chips are fully compatible with Intel's architecture but will be cheaper than Intel's and offer better performance. AMD says it combined the computing cores in Naples with other required systems on the same chip, providing greater speed and efficiency over Intel's multi-chip design.

    Image courtesy of The Next Platform, click to visit the source.
    • How AMD’s Naples X86 Server Chip Stacks Up To Intel’s Xeons
      Mar 08 2017 by Timothy Prickett Morgan at The Next Platform

      Ever so slowly, and not so fast as to give competitor Intel too much information about what it is up to, but just fast enough to build interest in the years of engineering smarts that has gone into its forthcoming “Naples” X86 server processor, AMD is lifting the veil on the product that will bring it back into the datacenter and that will bring direct competition to the Xeon platform that dominates modern computing infrastructure.

    • AMD Announces EPYC: A Massive 32-Core Datacenter SoC
      May 16 2017 by Sebastian Peak at PC Perspective

      AMD has announced their new datacenter CPU built on the Zen architecture, which the company is calling EPYC. And epic they are, as these server processors will be offered with up to 32 cores and 64 threads, 8 memory channels, and 128 PCI Express lanes per CPU.

      Some of the details about the upcoming "Naples" server processors (now EPYC) were revealed by AMD back in March, when the upcoming server chips were previewed:

    • AMD Previews “Naples” High-Performance Server Processor, Prepares to Return Innovation and Choice to the Datacenter in Q2 2017
      Mar 07 2017 by AMD at AMD

      "Naples" features:

      A highly scalable, 32-core System on Chip (SoC) design, with support for two high-performance threads per core
      Industry-leading memory bandwidth, with 8-channels of memory per "Naples" device. In a 2-socket server, support for up to 32 DIMMS of DDR4 on 16 memory channels, delivering up to 4 terabytes of total memory capacity.
      The processor is a complete SoC with fully integrated, high-speed I/O supporting 128 lanes of PCIe® 34, negating the need for a separate chip-set
      A highly-optimized cache structure for high-performance, energy efficient compute
      AMD Infinity Fabric coherent interconnect for two "Naples" CPUs in a 2-socket system
      Dedicated security hardware

    • AMD EPYC New Details on the Emerging Server Platform
      May 16 2017 by Patrick Kennedy at STH

      AMD announced several key EPYC details. The first one is going to be major. Every EPYC CPU is what the company calls, “unconstrained.” That means that every feature is found on every CPU.

      This is a large motherboard, to accomodate 8 or even 16 DIMMs. Photo courtesy of STH, click image to read the source.

      If you saw the Intel Scalable Processor Family coverage we had, you would be right in assuming this “Unrestrained” language is a direct shot at Intel. Intel clearly outlined that their new family will have features reserved for certain tiers (as they do even in the E5-2600 V3/ V4 generation.)

    • AMD EPYC June 20, 2017, Threadripper and Vega at Computex 2017
      May 31 2017 by Patrick Kennedy at STH



    8th Generation Core Processors called i9

    • Intel Core i9 Announced: 18-core Skylake-X, Kaby Lake-X and X299
      May 30 2017 by Ryan Shrout at PC Perspective

      During its press conference at Computex 2017, Intel has officially announced the upcoming release of an entire new family of HEDT (high-end desktop) processors along with a new chipset and platform to power it. Though it has only been a year since Intel launched the Core i7-6950X, a Broadwell-E processor with 10-cores and 20-threads, it feels like it has been much longer than that. At the time Intel was accused of “sitting” on the market – offering only slight performance upgrades and raising prices on the segment with a flagship CPU cost of $1700. With can only be described as scathing press circuit, coupled with a revived and aggressive competitor in AMD and its Ryzen product line, Intel and its executive teams have decided it’s time to take enthusiasts and high end prosumer markets serious, once again.

    • Intel to Strike Thunderbolt in CPUs


      May 31 2017 by Ryan Shrout at EE|Times

      Unfortunately there’s a large amount of confusion in the market around the Type-C connector USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3 share. Type-C is a form factor of cable and port that can be used for USB 3.1 Gen1 (essentially running at USB 3.0 speeds), Gen2 (at up to 10 Gbits/s) and Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40 Gbits/s with other features).
      Intel thinks it has solution. The company will begin to integrate Thunderbolt 3 directly onto the CPU although it hasn’t specified when.

    • Intel Announces Basin Falls: The New High-End Desktop Platform and X299 Chipset

      May 30 2017 by Ian Cutress at AnandTech

      If a user has a 16 lane CPU in place with one storage drive, the GPU slot can be x8 with the network controller and storage active, or if the GPU slot(s) is x16 or x8/x8, then the network controller and PCIe storage is disabled, unless muxes and quick switches are equipped on the motherboard to carry the signal around such that the PCIe storage moves to chipset based, or defaults to SATA only, or etc etc etc

    What a mess, who wants to think about all that?

    "I have some things to say - Core i9 & X299" at Linus Tech Tips.


    • AMD's 16-Core Ryzen Threadripper CPUs Coming This Summer
      May 16 2017 by Sebastian Peak at PC Perspective

      AMD revealed their entry into high-end desktop (HEDT) with the upcoming Ryzen "Threadripper" CPUs, which will feature up to 16 cores and 32 threads.
      These Threadripper CPUs follow the lead of Intel's HEDT parts on X99, which are essentially re-appropriated Xeons with higher clock speeds and some feature differences such as a lack of ECC memory support. It remains to be seen what exactly will separate the enthusiast AMD platform from the EPYC datacenter platform, though the rumored base clock speeds are much higher with Threadripper.



    Coffee lake parts arriving at the end of this year, going from 2 cores to 4 but staying at 15 watts, and (maybe) 30% faster!

    • Computex 2017: Intel 8th Gen Core Processors 30% Faster than 7th Gen
      May 30 2017 by Ryan Shrout at PC Perspective

      To quote directly from the Intel press information:

      "As we move toward the next generation of computing, Intel also shared its commitment to deliver 8th generational Intel® Core™ processor-based devices by the holiday season, boasting more than 30 percent improvement in performance versus the 7th Gen Intel® Core™ processor."



    • ASUS X299 Enables Intel Virtual RAID on CPU - RAID-0 up to 20 SSDs!

      May 31 2017 by Allyn Malventano at PC Perspective

      Ken and I have been refreshing our Google search results ever since seeing the term 'VROC' slipped into the ASUS press releases. Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC) is a Skylake-X specific optional feature that is a carryover from Intel's XEON parts employing RSTe to create a RAID without the need for the chipset to tie it all together.
      A couple of gotchas here:

      • Only works with Skylake-X (not Kaby Lake-X)
      • RAID-1 and RAID-5 are only possible with a dongle (seriously?)
      • VROC is supposedly only bootable when using Intel SSDs (what?)

      The third essentially makes this awesome tech dead on arrival. Requiring only Intel branded M.2 SSDs for VROC bootability is a nail in the coffin. Enthusiasts are not going to want to buy 4 or 8 (or more) middle of the road Intel SSDs (the only M.2 NAND SSD available from Intel is the 600p) for their crazy RAID - they are going to go with something faster, and if that can't boot, that's a major issue.

    Jun 04 2017 Updates

    Added Linus Tech Tips video above, for his analysis of Intel's "knee jerk" reaction to Threadripper. Also added index, with better organized sections.

    Jun 21 2017 Updates

    New EPYC processor servers just listed by Supermicro, seen on the "Introduction, Server, and Motherboards" tabs:

    • New Generation AMD EPYC™ Processor-based Solutions

      Supermicro's latest range of AMD EPYC™ 7000 Series SoC-based server and storage solutions offer new levels of optimized performance per watt per dollar, and deliver outstanding core density, superior memory bandwidth, and unparalleled I/O capacity.

      Supporting up to 32 "Zen" cores and 64 threads per socket, these Supermicro solutions are tightly coupled with high-throughput, low-latency, hot-swappable NVMe storage, up to 4TB of DDR4 memory over 8 memory channels per socket, and up to 128 PCI-E 3.0 lanes on a dual- or single-socket system

    The "AS -4023S-TR (Coming soon)" variant seems to be the only non-rackmount model, of interest to the home virtualization enthusiast. Based on published processor specs of these dual socket systems, we already know that even at idle, this 1280 Watt power supply tower system will likely use upwards of 3x the power of any Xeon D system, which get by just fine with a 250 watt power supply. EPYC is powerful, but also less likely to be practical as an always-on system for your home lab.


    See also at TinkerTry

    See also

    • Project USB to SDDC - Part 2
      Apr 13 2017 by William Lab at virtuallyGhetto

      I had already been hearing great things about E200-8D platform but I had not had the opportunity to get my hands on the system to play with. After only spending a little bit of time with the platform while prepping for the VMUG event, I can see why is a pretty slick system for a vSphere/vSAN based home lab, especially if you need to go beyond 32GB of memory which is where the Intel NUCs currently max out at.