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Haswell Xeon(s) – Too Much Of Heaven?

The "Denlow" Xeon E3 v3 platform, in early to mid 2013, would be the first Haswell workstation / entry level platform, just after the Ivy Bridge based Xeon E5 v2 platform appears – odd roadmap schedule, isn't it?

Unlike the extremely slow technology transition for the high end server CPUs, we've got much faster plans by Intel to embrace the mainstream CPU line into the entry level workstations and servers. So, while the Ivy Bridge based Xeon E5 v2 will be out likely early to mid next year, well over a year after the Ivy Bridge desktops, and same for the Haswell based Xeon E5 v3 a year later, the 'Xeon E3' parts don't suffer that fate – well, they are the rebadged desktop parts after all. The Ivy Bridge based Xeon E3 v2 was available soon after the desktop Ivy Bridge parts.

Therefore, soon after the desktop LGA1150 Haswell platform arrives early next year, it will be followed by 'Xeon E3 v3' follow up and its associated Denlow platform. Using the very same quad core dual channel DDR3 die, with GT3 graphics option and L4 external cache die (this time used for 3-D workstation tasks), and the new platform will have a bunch of Intel's own uATX boards supporting it. With the improved memory controller, two ECC DIMMs per channel will now run at DDR3-1600 speed, according to Intel material – but then, we see that running without problems even at higher speeds with Ivy Bridge anyway.
The key Haswell improvements, like higher efficiency core with more instructions per clock, as well as FMA and integer handling extensions for AVX, will see greater benefits in workstations than in servers. The lower per core power consumption and fully integrated voltage regulation within the chip, though, will be more beneficial for the entry level server folk. Otherwise, the system features at board level will look pretty much the same as Ivy Bridge, with 16 PCIe v3 lanes, USB3, SATA3 and other interfaces thrown in.
One interesting usage model for the Xeon E3 v3 next year is the super compact OpenGL & OpenCL certified 3-D mini workstation for architectural, engineering and multimedia use, where 'good enough' performance – remember the AMD speak for their APU here – coupled with key apps certification, could help Intel break further into the Nvidia-dominated workstation space and kick out low end Quadros along the way. AMD "Trinity" based workstation APUs attack the same category, by the way.
Either way, it's kind of pity that Intel seems to widen the gap between the mainstream and high end parts further as we go along. Look at the Ivy Bridge example – the desktop parts arrive in 2Q 2012, the server ones likely only in 2Q 2013, and the poor sods depending on the high end desktop LGA2011 may have to wait till 3Q 2013! Well, when one is the sole leader at the top, well, he can afford to delay and nix the schedule as he wishes, as there is no other vendor breathing down its neck – Chimpzilla, where art thou? Do we need a new challenger?

Nebojsa Novakovic

In the spare time over the past two decades, editor and writer of high-end computer hardware and design features and analysis for European and US media and analyst houses. Reviews of high end hardware are my specialty for 28 years already.

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