Intel had a fairly big announcement today, highlighting their work in the server MP space with a new multi-processor framework dubbed Caneland. This is a new one on Intel, and definitely new in the industry, marking the first time a four-socket quad-core offering has reached this level. The basis of the system is the Tigerton CPU, running four cores at up to 2.93Ghz per core. This is married to the Clarksboro chipset, and Intel is claiming a 2x speed improvement over existing Xeon-based chips. I had a chance to play with the Tigerton/Clarksboro framework in Intel's lab today, and it really is rather odd to see 16 cores on 4U, four-socket Windows box. I ran a few benchmarks, but I can't publish any of the data -- yet. Suffice it to say that the official launch of Caneland later this year will be quite interesting. Manufacturers have been getting shipments for over a month now, so Intel isn't worried about quantities.
I happened to be in Intel's Oregon location to attend a workshop centered around a some new products that will be announced in the coming months. It was a very enlightening few days, and left me truly wondering about AMD's delayed quad-core, Barcelona. It's clear to me that Intel's technology isn't quite as good as AMD's Opteron and Barcelona, but then again, they've had their version of a quad-core x86_64 CPU for quite some time, while AMD's still waiting on the official launch of their quad.
The differences in CPU design are significant. Where Intel basically bolts two dual-cores together to make a quad-core, AMD is placing all four cores on a single chip, in all its HyperTransport and NUMA glory. I've found the Operton to be the better choice for lots of workloads, especially RAM-intensive applications, and found Intel's new Xeons to be speedy, but challenged in key areas, such as bus performance and memory access. Those points are moot, however, if AMD delays Barcelona too much longer. I know I'm eager to set these new chips against each other, but it will be a bit of a wait on both fronts.
Whatever else is happening, it's certain that on every level, CPU development is full steam ahead... just in time for everyone to start spec'ing gear for their virtualization rollouts.