Intel was first to introduce dual-core x86 processors and they are now first with the quad-core push thanks to Kentsfield and Clovertown. As we had covered in the introduction, Intel hopes for a speedy quad-core adoption with shipping over one million parts before Advanced Micro Devices is able to introduce their competition. Though, as we had mentioned earlier, this is not a true quad-core processor but rather two dual-core Woodcrest cores placed onto a single LGA-771 processor substrate. The performance of the Smithfield (original Pentium D) was affected due to the high heat output, but fortunately, these thermal issues do not plague the Clovertown. The performance-per-Watt has been a critical measurement for comparing processors and the Xeon 5300 series deliver a higher level of performance-per-Watt than the dual-core 5100 series. However, the consequence of using this bonded-architecture is the cores are communicating with each other using the system Front Side Bus. If you are after a "clean" core design you will have to wait for Tigerton (resulted from the death of Whitefield) in 2007. Tigerton is a quad-core component (possibly based on the Merom core) and will use a high-speed interconnect technology so that each processor can connect directly to the server's Chipset. Out on the horizon for next year is 45nm production for the second half of 2007. A Kentsfield-based Xeon (3200 series) is also slated for release soon. AMD's first quad-core will come in the form of Deerhound and Barcelona.
Getting back on track with the Xeon E5320, this 1.86GHz quad-core had certainly outperformed the 3.20GHz Xeon 5060 Dempsey and in some benchmarks was able to beat out the Xeon 5150. It is important to point out that the Xeon 5150 is the second fastest model in the 5100 series where as the E5320 is the third fastest model in the 5300 series. Even so this 1.86GHz quad-core processor was extremely competitive. In the compilation benchmarks where the system is able to heavily utilize multiple cores the Xeon E5320 was able to shine. Most notably a single Xeon E5320 was 200 seconds faster at compiling the Linux 126.96.36.199 kernel than the Intel Xeon 5150. The area where the Xeon 5300 series had lagged behind was with the memory bandwidth.
The Intel Xeon 5300 series should be immediately available starting today. The prices remain very competitive with the Xeon 5100 series, which should help with the push for quad-core adoption. The Xeon E5320 looks like it will be selling for approximately $700 USD per processor. If you have any additional questions about Intel's Clovertown processors or would like to see additional performance metrics and other information be sure to stop by the Phoronix Forums. Over the coming weeks and months we will be presenting additional articles on the topic of quad-core computing at Phoronix and hopefully other processors in the Xeon 5300 series.
The bottom line is if you are after a Clovertown processor for your server or workstation we have no objections. The ability to compile the kernel in just over five minutes is certainly a beautiful thing. During our testing thus far we have yet to run into any show stopping situations -- just make sure your software can properly benefit from four or eight cores. If price is no issue to you or your IT department by all means feel free to upgrade. However, if these systems are in it for the long haul, you may be better off waiting for Tigerton next year. On the AMD side, the Socket F Deerhound will not be making its presence known until the middle of 2007.