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Intel expands 'Sandy Bridge' Xeon E3 lineup

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Intel is rolling out more chips for single socket workstations and servers from its "Sandy Bridge" Xeon E3 lineup.

The Xeon E3-1200 family of chips, which were slated to be rolled out sometime around in February, were delayed back at the end of January when Intel discovered a flaw in the "Cougar Point" chipsets that are used with Core and Xeon E3 processors. (The flaw could cause two of the six SATA ports supported by the chipset to degrade over time and fail.)

But Intel had already geared up its PR machine to talk about micro servers - by Intel's definition, a single-socket server with four memory slots and an interconnect that allows them to share power with multiple, free-standing nodes in a rack chassis. A micro server is distinct from blade servers in that a blade chassis has a network midplane, which links blades to chassis management controllers and to network switches inside the chassis; micro servers have their own ports and don't have management nodes controlling them.

So back in early March, Intel showed off a prototype micro server it had built and started talking about where these machines might be appropriate in hyperscale data centers; the prototype was based on a quad-core Xeon E3, although Intel would not admit it at the time.

A week later, with everybody talking about SeaMicro's SM10000-64, which uses a single Intel's dual-core Atom N570 and offers 4GB of memory per node, and tongues wagging about baby ARM servers, Intel decided to soft-launch some of the Xeon E3 processors to draw a line in the sand and declare that it will dominate the micro server segment as it does regular rack and tower servers.

At the time, Intel revealed the basic feeds and speeds of seven different Xeon E3-1200 processors without their prices. Today, Intel said that there are actually eleven E3-1200 processors, including all of the ones announced three weeks ago as well as four new models that include Intel's HD graphics on the chip. These processors run 15 watts hotter than the ones with the HD unit missing and cost a few bucks more, as you can see below:

Intel Xeon E3 table

While any one of these processors can be used in a single-socket workstation, entry-level workstations are expected to make use of the integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU built in and thereby avoid needing to install a discrete graphics card in a PCI-Express x16 slot. Of course, some workstation users will want to use more powerful graphics cards, and they will be able to buy any one of the E3-1200 chips that don't sport the HD Graphics. Any Xeon E3 chip with a 5 at the end of its designation has the integrated graphics controller in the chip package. ®

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