From Pentium Pro to Nehalem: The Story of Transformation

Today, at our headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley, we launched the most important Intel server product since 1995’s Intel® Pentium® Pro processor.

In 1995, fewer than 750Ku servers based on Intel architecture were sold, representing only 10 percent of the total revenue for server hardware purchases−most of these were simple department or print servers playing fairly modest roles in the computing hierarchy. The Pentium Pro processor was our first chip optimized for server workloads—you could call it the father of the Intel® Xeon® processor. With its multiprocessing front side bus and the first out of order microprocessor in the industry, we knew the technology was transformative, but we didn’t predict the role that the technology ultimately would play as a driver for growth of the internet.

Today, 8 of 10 servers are based on Intel technology. There are still proprietary systems in the market but Intel-based servers are growing every year into a broader range of ever higher end applications. Into this market segment, today we’ve introduced another transformative server technology: the Intel® Xeon® processor 5500 series (code-named Nehalem-EP) designed by the same core team in Oregon that did the original Pentium Pro design work.

There are several breakthrough capabilities incorporated into platforms based on the Xeon 5500. First is the awesome raw performance. The performance gains relative to the prior generation are greater than for any Xeon processor we’ve ever delivered. Across a range of enterprise workloads, Xeon 5500 processor-based systems will deliver 70-125 percent higher performance than systems based on the Xeon 5400 series. That’s a stunning 1.7x – 2.25x performance.

Xeon 5500-based platforms also deliver dramatic leaps in intelligence and adaptability. Server workloads are diverse, and the physical environment that servers operate in, are increasingly constrained. Breakthroughs in the Xeon 5500 include Intel Turbo Boost Technology, Hyper-Threading Technology, Power Gating, Extended Page Tables, and VT Flex migration. In combination, they enable servers to deliver outstanding results on a broad range of workloads: optimized for parallelism or sensitive to clock frequency, virtualized or native, performance critical or power limited.

With this combination of advances, we know the Xeon 5500 will have a profound impact on the server market segment. While we can’t predict exactly how the market will evolve, there are two areas where I believe the new Xeon processor is likely to be most transformative. First is discovery and invention. As the foundation of high performance computing solutions both big and small, the Xeon 5500 delivers the performance to help scientists unravel the mysteries of the universe, as well as speeding time to market for small local manufacturers. We are seeing extraordinary interest in the Xeon 5500 for HPC with well over 100K units already installed in HPC configurations on the day of launch.

As the internet expands toward our vision of 15 billion connected devices by 2015, the Xeon 5500 will also be a foundational technology for the transformation of internet infrastructure. Our industry is aligned on a vision for applications abstracted from optimized hardware, available on demand, and scalable to the masses—often called cloud computing. Executing to this vision requires underlying technology that incorporates the adaptability, capability, and intelligence of our newest Xeon processor.

Characterizing an introduction as the most important in over a decade is a serious—and debatable—statement. We didn’t make this statement last year and don’t expect to make it next year. The combination of immediate benefit and long-term upside make the Xeon 5500 truly exceptional. What do you think?