Intel gives Xeon a makeover to bring us colour-coded clouds

Any Chipzilla kit for data centres are now members of the 'Xeon Scalable Family'

The Xeon Scalable Family
Meet the family - the "Xeon Scalable Family"

Intel's giving its Xeon CPUs a makeover.

Details of enhancements to the chips' architecture will be revealed soon – we think in early June – ahead of a "mid-year" launch, which is about when it's assumed Skylake Xeons will land with a 14nm manufacturing process. The Register doesn't think Kaby Lake silicon, or its successor Cannon Lake, is what will emerge in mid-2017.

We are being told the new Xeons will include a “brand new core, cache, on-die interconnects, memory controller and more.” The new CPUs will also offer “optimized features for compute, storage, and network”.

Before the details emerge, we get a re-branding exercise that will see the Xeon E5 and E7 become part of a new “Xeon Scalable Family” that “Represents [a] new foundation for scalability” and covers CPUs destined for multi-socketed servers.

The family will give its member CPUs metallic names: there will be Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum models, with more expensive metals denoting higher performance. Intel branding will tell us there's “Xeon Platinum Inside” and so on. Chipzilla also wants that branding to reach the names that clouds apply to their servers-for-hire so that users can more easily understand the performance offered by different cloudy VMs.

Also in the "scalable family" will be Intel's solid state disks, including Optane. Chipzilla's Ethernet will be there too, alongside the Omni-Path fabric architecture, Xeon Phi, silicon photonics, the Nervana range and Xeons with field-programmable gate arrays.

Keen-eyed Reg readers will by now have noticed we've not mentioned the Xeon E3 and Xeon D. Neither has made it into the "family" because they're intended for use in single-socket machines which isn't Intel's idea of scalable. Both are also being cut loose from the main Xeon development process and release cadence.

Why is Intel suddenly all about scalability?

We know that AMD is about to return to the server CPU market with its Naples silicon

and that ARM-powered server silicon is breeding like rabbits, even tempting Microsoft to give them a run powering Azure. Intel's famous paranoia will be keen to nip those uprisings in the bud.

Chipzilla also wants to remind buyers that no matter how impressive silicon looks on paper it takes time for an ecosystem to deliver all the pieces of big rigs that can handle big workloads. Intel has just an ecosystem in place in the form of its "Builders" program of folks who build compute at scale.

Data centre products contributed US$4bn to Intel's bottom line last quarter alone. The "scalable family" is therefore also about scaling sales and revenue in one of the few markets that is both growing and dominated by Intel, as the company knows PC sales won't save it, that it missed the million-CPUs-a-year mobility market and is in for a fight to carve out a slice of the internet of things caper. ®

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