Intel has unveiled the latest generation of its Xeon server chips. The new Ice Lake chips are based on a new architecture for the first time since Skylake and are manufactured on a smaller process. Intel has also added some special new features for AI and 5G, among others.
Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Platform Group, calls the flagship model of the new Ice Lake line “the greatest processor we’ve ever built”. He is referring to the Xeon Platinum 8380, which is equipped with 40 cores and supports 80 simultaneous threads with Hyperthreading.
20 percent IPC improvement
Ice Lake is based on the new Sunny Cove architecture. With this architecture, the IPC should be improved by 20 percent compared to Skylake. Other improvements include large cache sizes: the Sunny Cove cores have a 50 percent larger L1 cache and a 25 percent larger L2 cache than their predecessors. Together, all this should make the new chips, on average, 46 percent faster in ‘popular data center workloads’ than the generation before.
Furthermore, Intel has worked to increase the maximum supported memory speed and all Ice Lake chips can handle eight memory channels. There is also support for PCIe 4.0, for faster connections with, for example, graphics cards or SSDs, writes SiliconAngle.
Intel has also made some adjustments that should benefit security. One of the improvements is the support for SGX. With this technique, the chips can turn part of the memory into ‘secure enclaves’, where sensitive data can be safely stored. Other applications on the server should not be able to access these enclaves. Furthermore, the Ice Lake processors are better equipped to quickly run AES, SJA and GFNA encryption algorithms.
With the DL Boost accelerator, the new processors should be much faster in machine learning tasks. Compared to the previous generation, Ice Lake would be 74 percent faster in AI workloads. Even the AMD EPYC 7763, the competitor’s fastest server processor, is said to fall flat against Ice Lake. Intel claims its new chips to be 150 percent faster in ’20 popular AI workloads’ than AMD’s offerings. However, how the processors hold up against specialised AI processors such as Amazon’s Trainium or the Nvidia A100 GPU remains to be seen.
Intel also boasts that the new Ice Lake processors are exceptionally well suited for the backbone of 5G infrastructure. The company points to several SKUs that are optimised for network applications. These work well with the network cards the company has also announced.
The new Ice Lake processors are available immediately through various partners. In addition to the flagship 40 core model, a variety of SKUs are available in a range of configurations, with a minimum of 8 cores.