With all the confusion of different little sockets on the desktop end of the story, from LGA1156 to 1155 to, next year, 1150, will Intel do the same to its high end? The answer is – no, at least till 2014. Even the 4-socket and above Xeon E7 families will follow suit.
In fact, based on our sources, the physical Socket 2011 format and pin number will be the most widely adopted one across all high end product ranges, from single socket high end enthusiast PCs like those using the Core i7 3960X today and its Ivy Bridge follow-ons later, to all the dual processor Xeon E5 workstations and servers now and in 2013, and all the quad processor and beyond Xeon E7 platforms, from the upcoming Ivy Bridge EX to its socket-compatible follow ons Haswell EX and, sometime in 2015 or 2016, 14 nm Broadwell EX. And, you may have seen from my old friend Charlie Demerjian at SemiAccurate that the (likely early 2014) Haswell EP dual socket Xeon E5 v3 will also keep the physical Socket 2011 format, just a very different pinout.
Obviously, even with the same socket and pin number, the pinouts would differ – in the EX series, there will be more QPI links, at least three, and the memory interface will be to the external dual-channel buffers rather than directly to the DIMMs. Since the Haswell EX and beyond are confirmed to support DDR4 memory, don't be surprised to see some sort of unofficial DDR4 support even in their predecessor, the Ivy Bridge EX, less than a year from now – at least for 'validation' purposes. Of course, that would require clocking the memory controller much higher, up from 1600 to 2666MHz JEDEC standard speed level, but then, Intel has just enabled that memory controller speed in the Ivy Bridge EX anyway for the lockstep mode functionality. Therefore, if keeping the same speed, but using the future external DDR4 memory buffer, you possibly could 'test' DDR4-2666 memory enablement on that CPU too.
The key take is that, seemingly, Intel accepted the Socket 2011 format as sufficiently versatile to manage the physical format and cooling issues for the near future at one go – with high TDP parts coming on all high end fronts, having the unified socket platform for thermal validation will help a lot with heatsink, board space and other issues that come along. So, the users and peripheral vendors alike have a reason to cheer up, as their highly valued cooling solutions and enclosures should stay relevant quite a bit longer…