Cisco UCS M3 and Intel Romley

Post by Jason Nash (thank you) on the upcoming Cisco UCS M3 generation

Today Cisco officially unveils the next generation of UCS servers.  These go along with the new announcement by Intel this week of their “Romley” platform that use the E5-2600 family of CPUs.  Let’s take a look at what’s new, changed, and where that puts us.

First, Let’s Look at Intel’s Announcement

These new blades are based on the new E5-2600 series of CPUs.  The codename for this whole platform is/was Romley.  The E5-2600 CPUs were code named Sandy Bridge.  If you’ve seen those names floating around now you know how it all comes together.  These CPUs replace the Xeon 5600 line that has been the basis for the B200 and C200 series of servers from Cisco.  Where as the 5600 line topped out at 6 physical cores per CPU the new E5-2600 line goes to 8 cores.  Just like the 5600 line they have HyperThreading so they can execute up to 2 threads per clock cycle.  This means we’ll now have dual-socket servers with 16 physical cores capable of executing 32 threads.

Memory is usually the constraint in a virtual environment, and that’s where we play most often.  These new E5s can do 24 DIMM slots in a single dual-socket server.  Combine those slots with the newly available 32GB DIMMs and you have a real small powerhouse that can do 16 cores and 768GB of RAM.  Along with this you’re going to see much higher memory throughput, as well.  Maximum memory speed goes up to 1600MHz with up to two DIMMs per bank.  When you go to 3 the speed drops to 1066MHz.  The QPI (QuickPath Interconnect), the direct path between CPUs, is now faster and there are now two of them.  Previously it was 6.4GT/s and now it is 8GT/s.

Along with fast RAM you also get more maximum cache.  The higher end chips go to 20MB of onboard cache.  You can see how these are really starting to blur lines with the E7 line of processors.

Another enhancement is what is referred to as Turbo 2.0.  The previous generation of chips would raise the clock speed of the CPU up when it could.  That was when the thermal load allowed for faster speed and usually when not all cores were utilized.  If you had a 6 core CPU but only 2 cores were active and the temperature of the chip had some headroom the system would “turbo” up the CPU in 133MHz increments.  These new CPUs are more aggressive and will actually go above the TDP (Thermal Design Power) for a brief period of time.  Basically, you should see turbo mode more often which leads to faster processing.

I was going to put a table here of the new CPUs but I’ll let the fine people at Anandtech do that for me here.  They also have a more in-depth overview of the new offerings.

The bottom line is that these CPUs are fast…of course they are faster than the 5600s they replace but it’s not just more cores and faster clockspeed.  In fact, clock speed is stagnant or getting a little slower yet these CPUs still get more done in a cycle than their predecessors.  When looking and comparing you need to go find good benchmarks or CPU leveling scales to make accurate estimations for sizing.  Some benchmarks I’ve seen show the same clockspeed CPU on the 5600 and E5 lines and the E5 almost 50% faster.  That’s impressive.

Oh more thing…  Eventually Intel will have a line of E5 CPUs that are quad-socket capable.  Consider that a less expensive quad-socket option than the E7s.

Read on here

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