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Intel responds to Epyc challenge posed by AMD with Skylake-based ‘Purley’ Xeon CPUs

Intel has responded to AMD’s renewed server and data centre challenge by unveiling a new series of ‘Purley’ Xeon server processors based on its new Skylake-SP architecture, just weeks after AMD showed off Epyc. 

The new Intel Xeon SP (which stands for ‘scalable platform’) CPUs will feature up to 28 processor cores per socket and six terabytes of system memory. They were unveiled in New York yesterday. The company claims a 1.65 times performance boost, on average, compared to the prior generation Broadwell-based server CPUs.

The launch comes just weeks after AMD unveiled its Epyc line of server processors based on the Zen architecture, which offer up to 32 cores per chip. Intel took a dig, naturally, and claims that its top-end Xeon Scalable processor delivers 28 per cent faster performance than AMD’s Epyc 7601. 

Given the higher core count of its new server chips, Intel has created an all-new ‘mesh architecture’ design which, it claims, will offer a “fundamental change” to performance. Unlike the firm’s previous ‘ring’ design, the mesh architecture arranges the individual cores in a 3D design, offering more direct paths and, in turn, faster performance. 

The new processors, Intel claims, have been designed for growing, and compute-heavy workloads, such as cloud computing, autonomous vehicles, 5G and artificial intelligence, the latter of which will reportedly see a 2.2-times performance increase with Xeon Scalable.  

“Data centre and network infrastructure is undergoing massive transformations to support emerging use-cases like precision medicine, artificial intelligence and agile network services paving the path to 5G,” said Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Data Center Group.

“Intel Xeon Scalable processors represent the biggest data center advancement in a decade.”

The new Xeon SP processors also deliver a 3.1 times performance improvement generation-over-generation in cryptography performance, according to Intel, which has also built its Key Protection Technology onto the chip to deliver enhanced protection to security key attacks.

The Xeon Processor Scalable Family offers four processor tiers, representing different levels of performance and a variety of integration and acceleration options: Copper, Silver, Gold and Platinum

Intel says that it has already begun rolling out the new hardware to customers, with the likes of Google Cloud, AWS and ATT having already bagged some of the 500,000 units shipped out ahead of Tuesday’s official launch. 

Intel’s server-class Purley processors are tipped to power Apple’s upcoming iMac Pro, which is set to be released in December. 

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