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 increase.

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?

6 Responses to From Pentium Pro to Nehalem: The Story of Transformation

  1. Rob Williams says:

    Although I’m not in a position where I use servers day in and day out, it’s not too hard to get excited about the introduction of Nehalem-EP. When the desktop variant (Core i7) was released last fall, it impressed anyone who laid their hands on it, so to finally see the same architecture available for servers and workstations is fantastic. As I mentioned before, the performance increases from Core to Nehalem are mind-blowing, and are going to be truly appreciated by anyone who uses them. The addition of VT-x/EPT makes things just a little bit sweeter for the virtualization guys as well.
    Huge congrats to Intel on this exciting introduction!

  2. Interesting read…I live in the other side of the world in a obscure island nation called Maldives…This news is breath taking to me as I support and love intel…

  3. Alexander says:

    Dear Mr. Gelsinger,
    The results which Intel demonstrates in technologies based on semiconductors are impressive. But it is hardly possible to make a jump to another level of CPU perfomance. The optical processors do not have such limitation.
    The Femto Technologies company has developed a quantum mirror growth technology which was the last scientific problem on the way to full photon superprocessor building.
    We will be glad to share our results with you and invite to collaboration. We will send the scientific and technical basis by e-mail.
    The technology has a wide spectrum of commercialization:
    - optical memory elements
    - dry supercapacitors (energy density exceeds 15000 J/kg)
    - IR detectors (including the dual-use products)
    - solar energy converters
    - high&low-resolution matrix infrared receivers
    - LEDs

  4. singletree says:

    Today is April 4, 2009.
    I am longtime shareholder and now
    looking to buy the newest and best
    desktop during next 6 months.
    What is new and newest?
    Thanks, JEB

  5. Nick Knupffer says:

    The most recent and highest performing desktop processor is the Intel Core i7 processor. A desktop based upon this chip would be an outstanding choice.

  6. Great post.
    I also would like to provide an additional information regarding the future.
    Next year we’ll have the 32nm version of Nehalem called Westmere and then Sandy Bridge, a brand new architecture also built on 32nm.
    But today is all about Nehalem.