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Cooper Lake Limps to Market

July 7, 2020

Author: Linley Gwennap

Intel’s newest Xeon processor, code-named Cooper Lake, was supposed to ship in late 2019, scale from 4 to 56 cores, and introduce the next-generation Whitley platform with eight DRAM channels and PCIe Gen4. But the recently released 3rd Generation Xeon Scalable products achieve none of these goals. The new family provides a modest upgrade to some 2nd Generation (Cascade Lake) models, adding Bfloat16 support for AI training, tweaking the DRAM speed, and doubling the chip-to-chip bandwidth in four- and eight-socket (4S/8S) systems. But it lacks the benefits of the Whitley platform and is incompatible with the existing Purley platform. The company canceled a previously announced 56-core model; the remaining Cooper Lake processors range from 16 to 28 cores.

Why Intel so thoroughly crippled the product remains unclear. As Cooper Lake’s schedule slipped closer to that of its successor, Ice Lake-SP, the company decided to merge them into a single generation. Keeping both on the Whitley platform, however, would have allowed customers to convert to the new platform and then decide which processors to use. Focusing Cooper Lake on 4S/8S systems avoids overlap, but these high-end customers could surely have benefited from additional memory channels and state-of-the-art PCIe technology.

The difficulty is that much of Cooper Lake’s value was based on the Whitley upgrades. The new processor employs the same CPU microarchitecture as Cascade Lake, with just a single narrowly targeted addition, and the same 14nm++ technology, so it offers essentially the same performance per watt as the previous generation. To deliver some benefit, the company provides modest clock-speed increases for many models, but these gains come with commensurately higher power (TDP). At a minimum list price of $1,555, the new product isn’t for mainstream servers.

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