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Intel showcases 'transformational' Nehalem

It's the next Pentium Pro, apparently

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(Semi-)Turbo Boost

For plain old physical workloads, Gelsinger said that about 30 of Intel's ISV partners were seeing roughly a factor of two performance boost running applications, sometimes as much as three times, in the move from two-socket Harpertown boxes to the new Nehalem EPs. The Nehalem machines launch with over 100 applications optimized for the Nehalem architecture - the most Intel has ever had at a server launch, according to Gelsinger.

The Nehalem chips also include a feature called Turbo Boost, which allows the power to the cores to be completely shut down if the cores are not needed, which allows the clock speeds to be cranked up on the remaining cores, thereby boosting the performance on existing workloads and, hopefully, reducing overall power consumption.

Intel has not yet said which of the Nehalem chips support Turbo Boost, but it does not appear to be all of them. (As we report elsewhere, Hewlett-Packard is only support seven Nehalem chips with the Turbo Boost mode, and only in one of the eleven servers it announced today, the DL380 G6).

Don't get too excited about Turbo Boost, though. You can't overclock a core to 4 GHz or 5 GHz if you shut one, two, or three cores on a quad-core Nehalem EP down. Intel says vaguely that on servers, depending on the chip in the box, Turbo Boost can push the clock speed up to 3.33 GHz. On workstations using the uniprocessor versions of the chips, the clocks can be cranked as high as 3.46 GHz using Turbo Boost.

You can get the full Intel price list here (PDF) if you want to compare the new Nehalems to the existing "Harpertown" Xeon 5400s.

It comes as no surprise that Gelsinger declared, as it has many times in the past, that the era of proprietary and RISC/Unix computing is over. And he trotted out 30 benchmark tests that Intel and its partners will win in the two-socket server space with the Nehalem machines.

Comparing Nehalem EP systems to Sun's UltraSparc T2 systems, Gelsinger said that on a suite of four common benchmarks measuring different parts of the system, a Nehalem box was half the cost and delivered 1.71 times the performance. And compared to a Power6-based Power 570 server from IBM, a Nehalem EP machine was one-tenth the cost and delivered 2.45 times the oomph. "Comparing to the IBM Power environment, it is almost humorous."

Well, maybe so. But I am sure IBM doesn't think so. It would have been enlightening to see a comparison with HP's two-socket Integrity servers using Intel's Itanium 9100 series processors. But you can't expect that kind of talk from Intel. But you can expect that El Reg will be gathering up the data to check these claims by Gelsinger and to make some of the comparisons he might not be so comfortable making. Stay tuned. ®

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