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Appeared on: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Intel Releases Xeon Processor E7 v2 Family For Big Data Analytics

To help companies in a variety of industries turn data into actionable insights, Intel today introduced the Intel Xeon processor E7 v2 family.

Using analytics enables businesses to make decisions that improve top-line and bottom-line results. The Intel Xeon processor E7 v2 family, code-named Ivytown, delivers new capabilities to process and analyze large amounts of data to unlock information.

"The advanced performance, memory capacity and reliability of the Intel Xeon processor E7 v2 family enable IT organizations to deliver real-time analysis of large data sets to spot and capitalize on trends, create new services and deliver business efficiency," said Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group.

The Intel Xeon processor E7 v2 family is a 2, 4 or 8-socket platform based on Intel Core microarchitecture (formerly codenamed Ivy Bridge) and manufactured on 22-nanometer process technology. With configurations supporting up to 15 processing cores and up to 1.5 terabytes (TB) of memory per socket, the new processor family achieves twice the average performance of the previous generation.

It has also triple the memory capacity of the previous generation processor family, allowing much faster data analysis. In-memory analytics places and analyzes an entire data set - such as an organization's entire customer database - in the system memory rather than on traditional disk drives.

To reduce data bottlenecks, the Intel Xeon Processor E7 v2 family features Intel Integrated I/O, Intel Data Direct I/O and support for PCIe 3.0, achieving up to four times the I/O bandwidth over the previous generation and providing extra capacity for storage and networking connections.

The Xeon E7 v2 chips will run at clock speeds between 1.4GHz and 3.8GHz, and draw between 40 watts and 150 watts of power. The chip also has 37.5MB in cache.

The new processor family continues Intel's tradition of delivering reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS). Intel Run Sure Technology is designed for "five nines" solutions essential for business-critical data by reducing the frequency and cost of planned and unplanned downtime.

New RAS features implemented in hardware and firmware include:

- PCIe Live Error Recovery (LER): This feature allows the system to bring down the PCIe link associated with the PCIe root port where an uncorrected (fatal or non-fatal) fault is detected in either an incoming or outgoing transaction without resetting the entire system. It also allows Firmware/Software assisted link retraining and recovery. LER also protects against the transfer of potentially corrupt data to the disk.

- Enhanced Machine Check Architecture Gen 1 (eMCA1): This feature enhances the existing Machine Check Architecture (MCA) by implementing Firmware First Model (FFM) of the error reporting (logging and signaling). FFM is a server RAS paradigm where all the error events are first signaled to platform specific firmware. The firmware processes the error logs and decides if and when to notify the Operating System or Application software layers of an error. EMCA14 can be configured to provide enhanced error log information to the OS and VMM that can be used to implement advanced diagnostic and predictive failure analysis7 (PFA) for the system. Legacy MCA provides physical address of the memory location when a corrected fault occurs, but it is challenging for PFA software to map it to an actual physical DIMM. EMCA1 allows providing such additional error logs to the PFA software.

- Machine Check Architecture (MCA) recovery for I/O: The MCA recovery for I/O allows uncorrected, both fatal and non-fatal, I/O errors to be reported through the MCA mechanism. Intel Xeon Processor E7 families incorporate PCI Express Advanced Error Reporting (AER) architecture to report (log and signal) uncorrected and corrected I/O errors. Normally uncorrected I/O errors are signaled to the system software either as AER Message Signaled Interrupt (MSI) or via platform specific mechanisms such as System Management Interrupt (SMI) and/or physical Error Pins. The signaling mechanism is controlled by BIOS and/or platform firmware. As a part of this new feature the processor has added a new Machine Check bank called IOMCA and allows logging and signaling of IO uncorrected errors through standard Machine Check Architecture. It logs the Bus, Device, and Function information associated with the PCI Express port, thus allowing error handling software to identify the source of error faster. By using this feature to signal the uncorrected I/O errors through the MCA mechanism, the errors can be communicated to the software layer (OS, VMM and DBMS) to improve error identification and recovery.

- Machine Check Architecture (MCA) recovery - Execution Path: The MCA recovery - Execution Path feature offers the capability for a system to continue to operate even when the processor is unable to correct data errors within the memory sub-system and allows software layers (OS, VMM, DBMS, and Applications) to participate in system recovery. This feature can handle hardware uncorrected errors occurring within the memory sub-system including main memory, last level caches, and mid-level caches. When the processor detects a fault within the memory sub-system, it will attempt to correct the fault. In most of the cases, memory faults are corrected by the processor. However, if the error cannot be corrected, the processor will notify the operating system (OS) using Machine Check Exception6 (MCE) and logs the error as an uncorrected recoverable error (UCR). The OS analyzes the log and verifies that the recovery is possible. If the recovery is possible then the OS un-maps the affected page(s) and triggers a SIGBUS event to the application. If the error is detected in an instruction code then the instruction fetch unit (IFU) is notified and MCE is triggered by the IFU. In this case, the OS will reload the affected page containing the instruction to a new physical page and resume normal execution. If the error is detected within the data space then the Data Cache Unit (DCU) is notified and the MCE is triggered by the DCU. In this case, the OS will notify the application through the SIGBUS event, and it is up to the application to take further action. The affected application is then responsible for reloading the data. If the data was already modified and the application cannot reload the data from the disk, the affected application will be terminated (i.e. a system reset will not be required, and other applications will continue to operate normally). In order to take full benefit of the MCA recovery - Execution Path feature, applications are required to be 'Recovery Aware'.

Starting today, system manufacturers from around the world will announce more than 40 Intel Xeon processor E7 v2 family-based platforms.

Dell announced the new PowerEdge R920 server, which is twice as fast in responding to Oracle queries, said Brian Payne, executive director of server solutions.

The four-socket R920 will support up to 6TB of memory. It is compatible with the NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) storage interface, an emerging protocol for solid-state drives. NVMe is expected to replace protocols such as SATA.

Hewlett-Packard announced the Proliant DL580 Gen8 server, which is also a four-socket server with support for up to 6TB of memory. HP claimed a 2.3 times improvement in server performance compared to predecessors, and twice the SSD performance with the company's Smart Array SAS controllers. HP is also claiming 2.7 times better I/O performance with support for PCI-Express 3.0.

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