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2nd-Gen Xeon Scalable Adds Cores

April 9, 2019

Author: Linley Gwennap

As part of a massive data-center announcement, Intel rolled out 58 new models representing the second generation of its Xeon Scalable processor family. Although the new design, code-named Cascade Lake, offers little performance benefit at the high end, the company increased the core count for many of its most popular models, delivering about 30% more performance at the same price. The new products, which are socket-compatible with Skylake-SP and fit into the same Purley platform, are in production now.

Cascade Lake also brings new capabilities to improve performance on specific workloads. The new processors introduce Intel’s VNNI extension, branded DL Boost, accelerating many AI inference workloads by 2–3x compared with Skylake-SP. They’re also the first to support Optane DIMMs, a new type of fast but persistent memory that connects directly to the processor alongside standard DRAM.

At the top of the line, the new Platinum 92xx products combine two die in one package to fit as many as 56 CPU cores per socket. Although the 92xx models double core count, cache size, and memory bandwidth compared with even the 82xx models, they require a new socket and burn as much as 400W. Intel doesn’t plan to sell these supersize processors directly, instead offering them to OEMs on custom motherboards.

Cascade Lake uses the same CPU microarchitecture as Skylake and the same process node, limiting the gain in general-purpose performance. The transistors improve slightly from 14nm+ to 14nm++, allowing Intel to wring out a bit more clock speed. For example, the base speed of the flagship Platinum product rises from 2.5GHz in the 8180 to 2.7GHz in the new 8280 with the same core count and power (TDP). Many midrange models receive a bigger boost in clock speed or core count, but often with a commensurate rise in TDP. 

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