On the 6th of April 2021 Intel released details on their latest line of Xeon Scalable CPUs. These high-performance professional CPUs have support for the latest CPU use cases built right into the CPU architecture. This includes AI acceleration, crypto acceleration and much-improved security. Here are the most interesting highlights from the launch.
The Intel DL Boost technology is a form of hardware-level acceleration that can significantly increase the performance of data centers that have to deal with deep learning workloads. This is becoming more and more common as we use machine learning to build algorithms that can solve the most pressing problems facing us in terms of energy, economics and within individual businesses.
As you can see in the above graphic taken from the Intel presentation, there are big claims when it comes to generational improvements in AI performance. When it comes to data centers that are a few years old, the improvement might be revolutionary.
Intel has been having a hard time over the last few years as more and more architectural security holes are discovered in their CPUs. Thatís a huge issue for data centers. Neither a security hole nor a performance-killing firmware patch would be acceptable.So Intel have stepped up their game and these new processors have better software guard extensions, encryption acceleration, hardened firmware and support total memory encryption.
There are a lot of CPUs that fall into the 3rd-generation Xeon line, but the flagship model is the Xeon Platinum 8380 with 40 cores. The base frequency of this processor is 2.3Ghz with a boost of 3.4Ghz.
Intel claims that the instructions-per-clock improvement with 3rd-generation Xeon Scalable CPUs is about 20%. However thatís not the whole story. When taking overall architectural improvements into account and looking at specific tasks such as floating point operations or benchmarks like Linpack, the generational improvement is nearly 1.5x.
There are of course CPUs in the range with much more modest core counts, starting with eight cores. As youíd expect, the base clocks on these CPUs are very close to their maximum boost clocks. CPUs in this range that offer between 8- and- 16 cores could be in the sweet spot for individual workstation systems.
The Nanometer Issue
While the likes of AMD and Samsung have moved on to smaller production processes such as 7nm and 5nm for their products, Intel is still largely stuck on the 14nm process. These new Xeon Scalable CPUs have made it down to 10nm, but thatís still significantly bigger than the competition. That raises questions about energy use, efficiency and total performance. Itís telling that all the Xeon processors with turbo clocks above 4Ghz were released in 2020. None of these new products can crack the big 4.0.
However, the 38-core 8368Q looks interesting. It only has two cores fewer than the flagship, but has a turbo rating thatís 300Mhz faster. On balance that could be better for workloads that donít quite max out so many cores. Either way, we are very excited to get our hands on these latest server-grade monsters.