Enlarge /. Thirty-six individual models of the Ice Lake Xeon scalable processor are launched today. Immediate retail availability is expected from major system vendors such as Supermicro, HPE, and Dell.
Intel today launched a new line of third-generation Xeon server processors. Significantly, these are Ice Lake processors – that is, Intel's 10nm process, not the increasingly obsolete 14nm process that the majority of Intel's product line has stuck to for many years.
Today's selection includes an incredible 36 separate SKUs ranging from the 8-core Xeon Silver 4309Y to the 40-core Xeon Platinum 8380.
Gen-on-gen performance improvement
There's no question that today's Ice Lake Xeons represent a significant, much-needed upgrade to Intel's server lineup. Similar to Intel's Ice Lake notebook parts, the clock speeds are lower than the older 14nm parts – but the IPC is more than sufficient to compensate for this, and unlike the Ice Lake notebook parts these Xeons generally have more cores than previous generations than fewer.
We haven't had a chance to take today's Ice Lake Xeons into our own hands, but Anandtech did. When comparing today's 40-core Xeon 8380 with the 28-core Xeon 8280 from 2019, single-threaded tests generally come out 3 to 15 percent in favor of the newer generation – and multithreaded tests favor the newer part by a whopping 54 up to 65 percent.
This of course ignores the elephant in the room – Intel's real competition, which comes in the form of AMD Epyc processors. As big as the improvement on the Xeon 8380 is, it's still not enough to catch up with the Epyc Milan or even the older Epyc Rome.
Epyc 7662, 75F3, 7742, 7713, and 7763 beat the 8380 handily in both integer and floating point multithreaded metrics. The Epyc 75F3 and 7763 also beat it in single-threaded metrics, with the 75F3 doing so by a fairly large margin.
Function and efficiency improvements
With the new Ice Lake Xeons still clearly lagging behind AMD (and Ampere, an arm-based server processor), Intel's marketing strategy is necessarily focused on pure Intel features and specific use cases, not just muscles.
Features like the extended instruction set AVX-512, Software Guard Extensions (SGX) and Optane DC Persistent Memory are only available on Intel systems – and they can represent significant performance improvements or even make-or-break requirements for specially tailored workloads.
The new Xeon generation offers support for PCIe 4, 4 TB DRAM (from 1 TB), a new 512 GB SGX enclave – and a lower price. The 40-core Xeon 8380 costs "only" $ 8,100, compared to the 28-core Xeon 8280 for $ 10,100.
Xeon Platinum 8380 offers one function compared to 8280 – fewer individual sockets. You can build an 8380 system in either single-socket or dual-socket variants, while the 8280 also supports 4- and 8-socket platforms.
Although the overall TDP of the 8380 has increased by 270 W compared to the 205 W of the 8280, the new part with 6.75 W / core to 7.3 W / core of the 8280 is even more efficient overall. The increase in efficiency becomes even clearer when comparing the SPECint or SPECfp values per watt.
Between the limited availability of Ice Lake first generation notebook CPUs and the limited availability of previous batches of Xeon Scalable third generation, we definitely had concerns about the availability of this latest batch of Ice Lake Xeons.
We spoke to Vik Malyala, Senior Vice President of Supermicro, about the new systems and he told us that Supermicro can ship new Ice Lake-based servers in sufficient quantities to meet demand.
Trendforce industry analysts agree, claiming that new Ice Lake CPUs are expected to account for 40 percent of Intel's total CPU shipments in the fourth quarter of 2021. Trendforce also notes that Intel retains 92 percent of the market share in the x86 server segment despite the outstanding performance from AMD and the benefits of energy efficiency under load.