Summary:

Intel says it will add new low-power, high performance system-on-chips in the Xeon E3 family for compute, storage and networking. Plus, it revealed it builds custom CPUs for eBay and Facebook.

Diane Bryant Intel
photo: Jordan Novet

Intel on Monday announced new high-performance but low-power Xeon E3 System-on-Chips (SoCs) in the 14 nanometer Broadwell architecture to be released next year. But plans to start building custom server chips for key customers could wind up being the most interesting thing the chipmaker has on tap.

“We’ll deliver a … low-power solution (with) integrated I/O, integrated fabric, integrated accelerators targeted at (servers), storage and network,” said Diane Bryant (pictured), general manager of Intel’s data center and connected systems group, at an Intel “datacenter day” in San Francisco announcing the new chips.

It’s the kind of product line designed for customers that want to cut power spending but want just as much performance if not better, with high density. In a press release the company said this next generation of Xeon E3 products will be built “for processor and graphics-centric workloads such as online gaming and media transcoding.”

inteldatacenter

However Intel did not provide details such as wattage for the forthcoming Broadwell chips.

Jason Waxman, general manager of Intel’s cloud infrastructure group, said the new chips will not replace Xeon directly, but rather “it will probably be an extension of where Avoton plays.”

Waxman also provided details about coming Avoton and Rangeley Atom processors, under the name C2000. The 64-bit chips are aimed at deployments inside of low-power microservers and will hit the market later this year. They will be able to fit as many as eight cores and are built on the 22-nanometer Silvermont architecture.

Here are some thoughts on the news from one analyst at the event, Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy:

Intel’s announcements today are a competitive response to two threats, ARM-based server SOC and heterogeneous computing. The 14nm Broadwell SOC will attempt to defends against ARM and custom CPU work and “accelerators” are Intel’s planned play against GPUs, DSPs and FPGAs.

Bryant also said Intel is “supporting custom CPUs for customers.” That could be a big play for business from webscale companies like Facebook that know exactly what they want.

And in fact, Waxman named Facebook and eBay as customers there.

Indeed, my colleague Stacey Higginbotham, who will have more to say on this later, anticipated this sort of work this earlier this month:

Right now big web companies like Google and Facebook are designing and building their own gear but soon they may want to have a few chip designers on hand as well.

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