Intel launches 3rd-gen Xeon data centre processors

Intel’s third-generation Xeon “Ice Lake-SP” data centre processors have arrived to challenge AMD’s “Milan” Epyc processors.

Codenamed Ice Lake-SP, the new processors use Intel’s 10nm+ transistors and the Sunny Cove core architecture that debuted in 2019. According to Intel, Ice Lake-SP boasts 1.7x AI inference performance, 1.62 times network performance, and 1.5 times improvement in latency-sensitive cloud applications.

Overall, the company said customers can expect a 2.65 times average performance increase compared to a five-year-old system.

Intel Ice Lake-SP vs Milan performance improvements
Intel touts big wins for Ice Lake-SP compared to AMD’s third-generation Epyc processors, especially in AVX512 and Inference workloads. Source: Intel

Additionally, Intel claimed that Ice Lake-SP is faster than AMD’s recently announced Milan processors in certain workloads.

Its press slides showed that with built-in AI acceleration, Ice Lake-SP is up to 25 times faster in image recognition and overall 1.5 times faster in 20 ML workloads. Similarly, Ice Lake-SP was shown to be faster than the Nvidia A100 GPU in these applications as well.

Intel Ice Lake-SP cache hit rate versus AMD's Milan.
Intel said that Ice Lake-SP boasts a superior cache hit ratio, core-to-core and socket-to socket-latency during data traversal compared to AMD’s Epyc processors. Source: Intel

The processor’s various architectural enhancements amount to roughly a 20 per cent IPC uplift. Ice Lake-SP’s Sunny Cove core brings a higher capacity branch predictor and significantly higher execution resources. Moreover, it increases the translation lookaside buffer (TLB) page support to 1024, 64 times that of Cascade Lake, to reduce memory access latency.

Other enhancements include larger cache sizes, new instructions for AI, compression, decompression and SIMD.

Every processor supports 6TB of DDR4 ECC memory, 2.6 times more than the previous Xeon generation. Memory can be installed in up to eight-channel configurations. Ice Lake-SP also supports Intel Optane persistent memory and features up to 64 PCIe 4 lanes per socket.

Ice Lake-SP also comes with security safeguards, including memory encryption, firmware protection, and Intel’s software guard extension suite. Furthermore, it features improved cryptography acceleration to help with tasks such as financial transactions.

There are a whopping 57 SKUs to choose from. They’re divided into 10 segments, each optimized for a specific use case or cooling demand. The range between 10 to 40 cores and 105W to 250W TDP and multi-socket configuration ranges from single to eight sockets.

Ice Lake-SP SKU table
Ice Lake-SP is divided into 10 use cases. Source: Intel. Click to enlarge.

Intel’s traditional Xeon classifications still apply here: Silver for cost-effective performance, Gold for a balance of cost and performance, and Platinum for high-performance. Pricing starts at US$555 for the 10-core Xeon Silver 4310T.

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