It is generally accepted as common knowledge that the high-end RISC server vendors—IBM and Oracle—have been bleeding market share in favor of high-end Intel Xeon based servers. Indeed, the RISC market accounts for about 150k units while the x86 market has almost 10 million servers. About 5% of those 10 million units are high-end x86 servers, so the Xeon E7 server volume is probably only 2-4 times the size of the whole RISC market. Still, that tiny amount of RISC servers represents about 50% of the server market revenues.

But the RISC vendors have finally woken up. IBM has several Power7+ based servers that are more or less price competitive with the Xeon E7. Sun/Oracle's server CPUs have been lagging severely in performance. The UltraSPARC T1 and T2 for example were pretty innovative but only performed well in a very small niche of the market, while offering almost ridicously low performance in any application (HPC, BI, ERP ) that needed decent per-thread performance.

Quite surprisingly, Oracle has been extremely aggressive the past few years. The "S3" core of the octal-core SPARC T4 launched at the end of 2011 was finally a competitive server core. Compared to the quad-issue Westmere core inside the contemporary Xeon E7 , it was still a simple core, but gone were the single-issue in-order designs of the T1 and T2 at laughably low clock speeds. No, instead, the SUN server chip received a boost to an out-of-order dual-issue chip at pretty decent 3GHz clocks. Each core could support eight threads but also execute two threads simultaneously. Last year, the Sparc-T5, an improved T4, had twice as many cores at 20% higher clocks.

As usual, the published benchmarks are very vague and are only available for the top models, the TDP is unknown, and the best performing systems come with astronomic price tags ($950,000 for two servers, some networking, and storage... really?). In a nutshell, every effort is made to ensure you cannot compare these with the servers of "Big Blue" or the x86 competition. Even Oracle's "technical deep dive" seems to be written mostly to please the marketing people out there. A question like "Does the SPARC T5 also support both single-threaded and multi-threaded applications?" must sound particularly hilarious to our technically astute readers.

Oracle's nebulous marketing to justify some of the outrageous prices has not changed, but make no mistake: something is brewing among the RISC vendors. SUN/Oracle is no longer the performance weakling in the server market, some IBM Power systems are priced quite reasonably, and the Intel Xeon E7—still based on the outdated Westmere Core—is starting to show its age. Not surprisingly, it's time for a "tick-tock" update of the Xeon E7. The new Xeon E7 48xx v2 is baked in a better process (22nm vs 32nm) and comes with 2012's "Ivy Bridge" core, enhanced for server/IT markets to become "Ivy Bridge EX".

Meet the New Xeon E7 v2
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  • TiGr1982 - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    I think, 6 cores on desktop for $300 will NOT happen this year.
    Because if it will, then you'll get $300 4 core i7 on mainstream 1150 & $300 6 core i7 on new 2011 simultaneously on the market.
    To adjust this, they'll have to sell 1150 4 core i7 for $200-$220, like Core i5 now.
    This is not realistic, because that's Intel we're talking about, right?...
    Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    That's actually the plan, except it won't be $300. I think the latest leaks suggest that the lowest end Haswell-E SKU will be a 6-core K series at ~$400. The other two price points remain about the same, $600 and $1000 for the 8-core SKU's. Reply
  • TiGr1982 - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - link

    To me, seems too good to be true. Will require a major change of mindset inside Intel to start selling 6 core for $400 and lower 8 core for $600 :)

    (while 8 core XE for $1000 is not surprising at all)
    Reply
  • Harry Lloyd - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - link

    The thing is LGA2011 mobos are really expensive, so the CPU price does not have to be that high. You can get a good B85 mobo even for less than 100 $, and an LGA2011 mobos start at 250 or even 300 $.
    I would not pay 300 $ for a mobo, and 400 $ for a 6-core CPU, that would still be ridiculous. I hate this stagnation. The transision from 1-core to 4-core happend really quickly.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, February 22, 2014 - link

    The smallest 6-core K model has been around 500$ for quite some time, so I see no problem going to 400$ this time. 8 cores for 600$ would indeed be a significant step for some, though. Reply
  • psyq321 - Monday, March 10, 2014 - link

    Well, if Intel manages to castrate the HEDT "E" version enough so that it does not pose any threat to their Xeon revenue, price drop might happen.

    However, one factor not to be underestimated is total available market and how much are target consumers for this kind of hardware willing to pay. I have no data, but for some reason I think only small % of "power users" (>very< power users) need 8 cores today and they would probably be willing to shell out $1000.

    Thing is, if you are Intel, you will probably making the calculation: what if we drop the price to, say, $600? Is this going to bring us more customers? Is this going to cannibalize some of, more lucrative, Xeon market?

    I suppose if Intel fuses out TSX, VT-D, ECC memory support and, of course, QPI (which is what they do anyway with Sandy-E and Ivy-E HEDT CPUs) the chip would practically be next to useless to most Xeon customers. So the remaining issue is the market.
    Reply
  • f0d - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    i agree

    i was hoping for 8 core ivy bridge-e chips but had to settle for 6 cores which i can easily use all of

    i do a LOT of video encoding using handbrake and that program just loves cores, i easily saturate all 12 threads with my settings in handbrake so i do believe it could use a single socket 8 core well (i have read tests that show handbrake not liking dual/quad socket systems for more cores - but does improve when using lots of cores on a single socket)
    Reply
  • MT007 - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    You have a error on page 8, in your fourth paragraph you have the opteron as 2.4ghz and only with a score of 2481. From your graph it should have been 2.3ghz and 2723? Reply
  • webmastir - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    They don't tend to fix errors/read comments I don't think. Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, February 21, 2014 - link

    Sure we do :-) Reply

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