We have been spoiled. Since the introduction of the Xeon "Nehalem" 5500 (Xeon 5500, March 2009), Intel has been increasing the core counts of their Xeon CPUs by nearly 50% almost every 18 months. We went from four to six (Xeon 5600) on June 2010. Sandy Bridge (Xeon E5-2600, March 2012) increased the core count to 8. That is only 33% more cores, but each core was substantially faster than the previous generation. Ivy Bridge EP (Xeon E5-2600 v2, launched September 2013) increased the core count from 8 to 12, the Haswell-EP (Xeon E5-2600 v3, sept 2014) surprised with an 18-core flagship SKU.

However it could not go on forever. Sooner or later Intel would need to slow down a bit on adding cores, for both power and space reasons, and today Intel has finally pumped the brakes a bit.

Launching today is the latest generation of Intel's Xeon E5 processors, the Xeon E5 v4 series.Fifteen months after Intel's Broadwell architecture and 14nm process first reached consumers, Broadwell has finally reached the multi-socket server space with Broadwell-EP. Like past EP cores, Broadwell-EP is the bigger, badder sibling of the consumer Broadwell parts, offering more cores, more memory bandwidth, more cache, and more server-focused features. And thanks to the jump from their 22nm process to their current-generation 14nm process, Intel gets to reap the benefits of a smaller, denser process.

Getting back to our discussion of core counts then, even with the jump to 14nm, Intel has played it more conservatively with their core counts. Compared to the Xeon E5 v3 (Haswell-EP), Xeon E5 v4 (Broadwell-EP) makes a smaller jump, going from 18 cores to 24 cores, for an increase of 33%. Yet even then, for the new Xeon E5 v4 "only" 22 cores are activated, so we won't get to see everything Broadwell-EP is capable of right away.

Meanwhile the highest (turbo) clockspeed is still 3.6 GHz, base clocks are reduced with one or two steps and the core improvements are very modest (+5%). Consequently, performance wise, this is probably the least spectacular product refresh we have seen in many years.

But there are still enough paper specs that make the Broadwell version of the Xeon E5 attractive. It finds a home in the same LGA 2011-3 socket. Few people will in-place upgrade from Xeon E5 v3s to Xeon E5 v4s, but using the same platform means less costs for the server vendors, and more software maturity (drivers etc.) for the buyers.

They look very different but fit in the same socket: Xeon E5 v4 on top, Xeon E5 v3 at the bottom

Broadwell also has several features that make it a more attractive processor for virtualized servers. Finer granular control over how applications share the uncore (caches and memory bandwidth) to avoid scenarios where low priority applications slow down high priority ones. Meanwhile quite a few improvements have been made to make the I/O intensive applications run smoother on top of a virtualized layer. Most businesses run their applications virtualized and virtualization is still the key ingredient of the fast growing cloud services (Amazon, Digital Ocean, Azure...), and more and more telecom operators are starting to virtualized their services, so these new features will definitely be put to good use. And of course, Intel made quite a few subtle - but worth talking about - tweaks to keep the HPC (mostly "simulation" and "scientific calculation software) crowd happy.

But don't make the mistake to think that only virtualization and HPC are the only candidates for the new up-to-22-cores Xeons. The newest generation of data analytics frameworks have made enormous performance steps forward by widening the network and storage bandwidth bottlenecks. One example is Apache Spark, which can crunch through terabytes of data much more efficiently than its grandparent Hadoop by making better use of RAM. To get results out of a massive hump of text data, for example, you can use some of most advanced statistical and machine learning algorithms. Mix machine learning with data mining and you get an application that is incredibly CPU-hungry but does not need the latest and fastest NVMe-based SSDs to keep the CPU busy.

Yes, we are proud to present our new benchmark based upon Apache Spark in this review. Combining analytics software with machine learning to get deeper insights is one of the most exciting trends in the enterprise world. And it is also one of the reason why even a 22-core Broadwell is still not fast enough.

Broadwell-EP: The 14nm Xeon E5
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  • ltcommanderdata - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    Does anyone know the Windows support situation for Broadwell-EP for workstation use? Microsoft said Broadwell is the last fully supported processor for Windows 7/8.1 with Skylake getting transitional support and Kaby Lake will not be supported. So how does Broadwell-EP fit in? Is it lumped in with Broadwell and is fully supported or will it be treated like Skylake with temporary support until 2018 and only critical security updates after that? And following on will Skylake-EP see any Windows 7/8.1 support at all or will it not be supported since it'll presumably be released after Kaby Lake?
  • extide - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    When MS says they are not supporting Skylake on Windows 7 DOES NOT MEAN it won't work. It just means they are not going to add any specific support for that processor in the older OS's. They are not adding in the speed shift support, essentially.

    For some reason the press has not made this very clear, and many people are freaking out thinking that there will be a hard break here will stuff will straight up not work. That is not the case.

    Broadwell has no new OS level features over Haswell (unlike Skylake with speed shift) so there is nothing special about Broadwell to the OS. As the poster above mentions, they are all x86 cpu's and will all still work with x86 OS's.

    The difference here is between "Fully Supported" and Compatible. Skylake and even Kaby Lake will be compatible with WIndows 7/8/8.1.
  • aryonoco - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    Johan, this is yet again by far the best Enterprise CPU benchmark that's available anywhere on the net.

    Thank you for your detailed, scientific and well documented work. Works like this are not easy, I can only imagine how many man hours (weeks?) compiling this article must have taken. I just want you to know that it's hugely appreciated.
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    Great to read this after weeks of hard work! :-D
  • fsdjmellisse - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    hello, i want to buy E5-2630L v4
    any one can give me website for buy it ?

    Best regards
  • HrD - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    I'm confused by the following:

    "The following compiler switches were used on icc:

    -fast -openmp -parallel

    The results are expressed in GB per second. The following compiler switches were used on icc:

    -O3 –fopenmp –static"

    Shouldn't one of these refer to icc and the other to gcc?
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    Pretty sure I did not mix them up. "-fast" does not work on gcc neither does -fopenmp work on icc.
  • patrickjp93 - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    Um, wrong and wrong. -Ofast works with GCC 4.9 and later for sure. And -fopenmp is a valid ICC flag post-ICC 13.
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, April 2, 2016 - link

    "-fast" is a typical icc flag. (I did not write -"Ofast" that works on gcc 4.8 too)
  • extide - Friday, April 1, 2016 - link

    Johan, if you read the comment, you can see that you mention icc for BOTH.

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