Intel emphasizes data-centric transformation of company at new Xeon launch

While highlighting its new product, including the new Cascade Lake processors and Optane persistent memory, Intel focused on the way it highlights what they said was a fundamental  transformation of the company.

Intel CEO Bob Swan, at the launch

SAN FRANCISCO – Intel chose the title ‘Data-Centric Innovation Day’ for their public launch of their 2nd-Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors – formerly code-named Cascade Lake – and its related technologies and solutions. That seemed a curious choice. But this was in fact the theme of the event – that Intel has fundamentally changed the company and business model to become data-centric, and that the new technologies are a key part of that.

“This is an extremely important event for our company,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan, to approximately 400 customers, partners, analysts and media. “This is historic. This is the first truly data-centric portfolio of products for our customers.”

Swan emphasized that this portfolio is the result of a conscious shift in strategy by Intel.

“We began a journey to transform from a PC-centric company to a data-centric company, and to help our customers prosper and grow in an increasingly data-centric world,” he stressed. “The launch of our new data centre portfolio not only advances our data-centric strategy, but helps customers extract more value out of their data.”

Swan noted that Intel is growing both their market share and TAM [Total Addressable Market] at a rate they have never reached before, with the $200 billion TAM increasing at a 17 per cent annual rate.

“Our ambitions as a company have never been greater,” he said. “Our focus is actually quite simple – deliver a high-performance data centric portfolio of CPUs, plus a suite of accelerant technologies like FPGs, memory and more, and build the best technologies and solutions together with our partners.

Navin Shenoy, EVP and GM of the Intel Data Center Group, got to actually introduce the new offerings.

“This is the first truly data-centric portfolio launch in our history,” he stressed. “We see the data-centric era emerging at the confluence of three mega-trends: the shift to the cloud; the growth of AI and analytics, and the cloudification of network and the edge. Intel has also been investing in a new approach to data-centric infrastructure –   move faster, store more, and process everything.”

The launch featured several high-profile announcements, which included the new 2nd generation Xeon scalable processor.

“We are launching the most comprehensive Xeon stack we have ever delivered, from 8 core Xeons all the way up to 56 core, with the Xeon Platinum 9200,” Shenoy said. Previous processors had SKUs up to 48 cores, with the 56 cores –112 in a two-socket system – each having access to expanding memory interfaces.

“These Xeons have a 30 per cent improvement in performance – the biggest generation to generation improvement in the last five years,” Shenoy added. “We are also announcing we are further pushing the envelope on Deep Learning with DL Boost, giving us the only architecture with integrated AI acceleration. We are seeing a 14x deep learning performance improvement from this.”

DL Boost impressed Patrick Moorhead, President and Principal Analyst, Moor Insights and Strategy.

“The most interesting things for me about the new Xeons are the addition of Machine Learning [ML] capabilities (DL Boost) built into the chip where, when latency counts, is good for specific inference workloads like Recommendation Engines,” Moorhead said. “Not too many know that CPUs already dominate ML inference usage and this just gave data centres another reason to continue doing this for certain workloads. This isn’t Intel’s big discrete AI accelerator play as those are slated to become real in 2020.”

Moorhead said that it’s not just the top part of the lineup that sees a big uptick.

“The Intel-stated 33 per cent raw performance boosts in the mid-range of the Xeon stack was surprising and could put it in a better competitive position,” he indicated.

A key feature of the new Xeons is the new Optane persistent memory.

“DRAM doesn’t allow for persistence and NAND doesn’t provide needed speed,” Shenoy said. “We are excited today to announce Optane DC Persistent memory. It has been a decade in the making for us, with thousands of engineers working on it. We had to invent a new media on the memory side, a new firmware, a new software and solution optimization from the entire ecosystem. With 4.5 TB of memory per socket, this allows us to break through the memory economics which have held back development for decades.

“For applications like SAP HANA, this could radically improve TCO and speed and could become a future “no-brainer,” Moorhead said.

For SAP, it’s a no-brainer now.

“Our HANA 2.3 release last year took advantage of this through early use access,” said Dirk Basenach, Senior Vice President, SAP HANA Cloud Platform, who appeared onstage at the event. “Data loading times at startup went from 50 minutes down to 4 minutes on a 6 TB system. HANA 2.4 this month will have more persistent memory and benefits.”

“Optane is one of those perfect techs for certain workloads, like in-memory databases,” said Bart Sano, Google’s VP of Platforms. “Optane is a credible alternative to DRAM, which takes the consideration of operational efficiency vs cost off the table.”

Lisa Spelman, VP of the Data Centre Group at Intel, also emphasized that Optane will be vital for the building of the industrial IoT edge.

“Content delivery networks [CDN] – streaming shows – are over 60 per cent of Internet traffic,” she said. “Optane is great for CDN.” She demonstrated the different between traditional streamed video and video using Optane, showing much improved performance.

Several other new processor families were also part of the launch.  The Intel Xeon D-1600 processor is an intelligent edge solution, a highly-integrated system-on-chip (SoC) designed for dense environments where power and space are limited, but per-core performance is essential. The Intel Agilex FPGA family, its next-generation of 10nm FPGAs, will offer customers application-specific optimization and customization to bring new levels of flexibility and agility to data-intensive infrastructure

“This is the first FPGA 100 per cent developed by Intel,” said Patrick Dorsey, VP and GM, Product Marketing, at Intel. “We are seeing some of the broadest adoption of FPGAs in years, and are now accelerating that strength with a new brand for a new class of FPGA with Agilex. It will provide both a 40 per cent increase in performance and lower power.”

Other elements of the announcement included additions to the Intel Optane SSD and Intel QLC 3D NAND SSD families. The Intel Optane SSD DC D4800X (Dual Port) combines the performance of Intel Optane DC SSDs with the data resilience required by mission-critical high-availability enterprise IT applications. Dual port capability adds redundancy to the data path to deliver continued data access in the event of failures or service operations and upgrades.

The Intel SSD D5-P4326 (Intel QLC 3D NAND) is an addition to Intel’s first-to-market PCIe QLC NAND SSDs for the data center. Using 64-Layer QLC technology (4 bits/cell), the product family delivers large affordable capacities to read-intensive cloud workloads. Additional cost optimizations on the Intel SSD D5-P4326 enable it to help accelerate HDD displacement in warm storage

Finally, Intel addressed high-speed connectivity needs with a new 100Gbe Ethernet 800 Series. The Intel Ethernet 800 series adapter features up to 100Gbps port speeds and is aimed at moving massive amounts of data in cloud, communications, storage and enterprise market segments. ADQ increases application response time predictability while reducing application latency and improving throughput.

The 2nd-Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors, the Intel Xeon D-1600 processor, Intel Optane DC persistent memory and Intel SSD D5-P4326 are all in general availability today. The Intel Ethernet 800 Series adapter is sampling today, with production scheduled for 2019’s third quarter. The new Intel Agilex FPGA family of 10nm FPGAs will start sampling in the second half of 2019. Intel expects systems with Intel Xeon Platinum 9200 processors to start shipping in the first half of 2019 and ramping in the second half of the year. Availability of the Intel Optane DC SSD D4800X will be disclosed at a later date.

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