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New Xeon shows Intel muscle

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Mark Davison in Prague – Intel formally launched its Xeon 7400 series of processors (codenamed Dunnington) here yesterday with a number of prominent customers extolling the new chip's strengths in improved performance, virtualisation and energy efficiency.

Displaying a wafer of the new 45nm processors to assembled press, Boyd Davis, GM of Intel's Server Products Group, described the Xeon 7400 as a "technology marvel".
"This is the foundation of the technology that has allowed Intel to extend its leadership," Boyd says. "It takes up a bit more space [on the wafer] when compared to the client guys, but it is a wonderful piece of technology. We're excited about it and our customers can get excited about it – it's leading in performance, built for virualisation, and best-of-breed."
Boyd presented a number of benchmarks which showed the 7400 offering improvements ranging between 18% and 48% across applications such as virtualisation, scientific computing, e-commerce, ERP and database. The standout benchmark, though, was IBM achieving over 1,2 tpmC (transactions per minute) with its 8-socket System x3950 M2 server.
As the world's CIOs continue to advance in the adoption of virtualisation, though, it was this area that was highlighted at the conference.
Boyd says that Intel is further enabling virtualisation with its built-in Virtual Technology.
"Virtual Technology is in the processor with VT-x," he says. "It's also in the I/O connections in the chipset with VT-d, and then we've done a lot of work on the network components with VT-c.
"It's not just what's in the CPU," he adds. "But also in the I/O infrastructure and the network itself."
Microsoft's senior director of Server Marketing, Bob Visse says the long-running collaboration between Intel and Microsoft has yielded great results in virtualisation.
"The Xeon 7400 series is a powerful platform for our Hyper-V solutions and we've worked closely together to ensure our software takes full advantage of its hardware-enabled virtualisation functionality," Visse says. "One more area of great co-operation being lower power consumption by enabling Windows Server 2008 power management by default on Xeon processors.
"Our customers can look forward to even greater levels of vitualisation in the data centre now that Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V supports up to 24 logical processors," he says.
Douglas Philips, senior marketing manager for EMEA at VMware, says Intel's VT FlexMigration and VMware Vmotion will deliver increased value to customers.
He explains that VT FlexMigration, which is built into the new processors, allows businesses to seamlessly migrate workloads across current and future Intel-based servers. Vmotion, he says, enables the live migration of running virtual machines from one physical server to another with zero downtime, continuous service availability and complete transaction integrity.
"Customers can only realise the full value of virtualisation if they choose the right hardware and the right software," Philips says. "The raw performance gains of the new Xeon platform, together with its built-in cpabilities like FlexMigration, mke it a great fit with VMware's platform."