Computer Graphics World

November / December 2017

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18 cgw n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 7 Wo r kstati o n s & Pro ces so rs SPECIAL REPORT: PROCESSORS: THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND THE WORKSTATION BY JON PEDDIE POW E R TO TH E P EO P LE workstation can be anything from a remote workstation in a virtual machine mode, to an ultra-powerful machine that is a small supercomputer. And while they come in various form factors with a sleek exterior design, it's what is inside that really counts. And that includes the processors – the GPU and CPU. Moore's law is the basic enabler that gives us transistor improvements, but that's not all there is to it. The processors themselves get new features and func- tions with every generation, so it's a triple improvement – speed, performance, and power reduction. When Intel x86 processors were first deployed in a workstation with Windows back in 1997, one of the salient features was an integrated floating-point proces- sor. Since then, expanded memory man- agers, security, and communications were added, and it went from one 32-bit core to 28 64-bit cores, plus a 512-bit SIMD processor and transcoder engines. Intel has been leading the workstation CPU market for years, and the previous-gen- eration processor, the Broadwell, was a performance leader that delighted millions of workstation users. Intel continued with its processor developments and introduced the next generation of Intel Xeon processors for workstations – the Intel Xeon Scalable processor (dual-socket capable) and the Intel Xeon W processor (single-socket capable). Both processors are built on the Skylake architecture, with more cores, higher frequency, more cache, expanded memory management, and PCIe lanes. Name Game To differentiate the workstation-class Xeon processors from the server-class processors, Intel has added the "W" designation to the name. Intel designs its CPU architecture and gives it a code name; in this case it is Skylake. That design can find its way into many different form factors, from laptops to super- computers. The processor is also named, such as an Intel Xeon Platinum processor. And those processors get used in a platform that is specifically designed for them. The platform includes supporting chips to provide USB 3.1 type A to C, Thunderbolt 3, gigabit Ethernet, SATA, and other ports. In regard to the Skylake platform, the supporting chip for the Xeon Scalable processor is known as the Lewisberg PCH, and for the Xeon W processor, it is the Kaby Lake WS PCH. It can get confusing at times because var- ious people use the different names inter- changeably. It gets even more complicated because the processor, supporting chip, and platform all have arcane part numbers too, which among other things denote frequen- cy, core count, and other esoteric elements. And, just to make you even crazier, things are expressed in acronyms. How Far We've Come Recently, Intel launched two new Intel Xeon processors. The E5-1600 Product Family processor is now the new Intel Xeon W processor (single-socket); this is the first product designed with a "W" for workstations in the product name. The other, the E5-2600 Product Family processor, is now the new Intel Xeon Scalable processor (dual-socket). We've come a long way from that first Windows-Intel based workstation in 1997. It came with a 266 mhz Pentium II processor and could, on a good day, hit 48.3 mflops. The top-of-the-line workstations of the day had a 300 mhz Intel Pentium II processor that could deliver 62.1 mflops. By comparison, in June 1997, the fastest supercomputer in the world was the ACSI RED at the Sandia National Laboratory, US Nuclear Arsenal, and it could do 1.3 tflops. It took up 1,600 square feet, filled 104 racks that held 9,298 CPUs with 1.2tb RAM, need- ed 850 kilowatts of power, and cost $46 million ($67 million today). Now you can have a supercomputer small enough to sit under your desk that beats it. For example, Dell just announced the Precision 7920 Tower with dual Intel Xeon Platinum processors, each with up to 28 physical cores, running up to 3.8 ghz A COMPARISON OF FOUR-YEAR-OLD WORKSTATION WITH A NEW SKYLAKE WORKSTATION CPU MODEL CPU Release Date: Cores 2013 8 2017 10 CPU Clock Speed Memory Capacity 3.9 GHz 256GB 1866 MHz 4.5 GHz 512GB Memory Speed 2666 MHz INTEL XEON E5-1680V2 INTEL XEON W 2155

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