Intel Launches Xeon 6700E "Sierra Forest" CPUs - Initially Up To 144 Cores

Written by Michael Larabel in Processors on 3 June 2024 at 11:00 PM EDT. Page 1 of 2. Add A Comment.

Intel Xeon 6 Sierra Forest launch

Intel is using Computex 2024 for announcing the first Xeon 6 processors, which are the E-Core "Sierra Forest" models that initially are available in up to 144 cores per socket. Intel is also using Computex to shed more light on the Gaudi 3 AI accelerator and the upcoming P core Xeon 6 "Granite Rapids" processors and the later launch of the Xeon 6900E models with up to 288 cores per socket.

Intel Xeon 6 workloads

The Intel Xeon 6 E-Core processors formerly known by the Sierra Forest codename are optimized for power efficiency in high density environments and catering to scale-out workloads. The E-core processors are playing to the hand of cloud native workloads, DevOps, databases, CDNs, storage, and other purposes where E cores are sufficient. Launching next quarter will be the much anticipated Xeon 6 P-Core "Granite Rapids" processors that are really geared for HPC, AI, and other high performance computing purposes.

Intel Xeon 6 performance gains

With Intel's marketing materials they are focusing in large part on those customers sticking to about a five year refresh for servers, which would mean going from Xeon Scalable "Cascade Lake" to Xeon 6 Sierra Forest where there is much better power efficiency thanks to having up to 144 E-cores. In a separate article today on Phoronix are some of the initial Xeon 6 Sierra Forest benchmarks (Intel Xeon 6780E & Xeon 6766E 144-core Performance Benchmarks Review). Gen-over-Gen is looking very exciting for Granite Rapids and I look very much to stressing the P cores when the time comes.

Intel Xeon 6 power efficiency

Intel is talking up to 3.7x better performance than current AMD EPYC processors when it comes to AI inferencing. That isn't too surprising given the strong showing of Sapphire/Emerald Rapids for AI software supporting Advanced Matrix Extensions (AMX). The E cores don't support AMX but the upcoming P cores will continue to build upon AMX. But not all AI software does support AMX at this point as something that is important to keep in mind. With today's E-core Xeon 6 launch, Intel is talking up to 1.3x the media transcode performance-per-Watt over current AMD EPYC processors. As Lisa Su shared yesterday in her Computex 2024 keynote, AMD 5th Gen EPYC "Turin" is also coming in H2 for competing with Intel Xeon 6.

Intel Xeon 6 staged rollout

Today it's the Xeon 6700E series launching for up to 144 E cores. Next quarter will be the Intel Xeon 6900P launch for the top-end Granite Rapids processors. Meanwhile it won't be until Q1'2025 of seeing the rest of the Xeon 6 family -- including the Xeon 6900E series where there can be up to 288 E cores per socket. That Q1 target is also when seeing the lower-tier Xeon 6300P / 6500P / 6700P parts. This very drawn out process came as a surprise to me in not seeing the entire Granite Rapids line-up until next calendar year or similarly the 288 core Sierra Forest processor. But given this staged launch, seeing Clearwater Forest and Diamond Rapids as the successors is presumably much more of a late 2025 timeframe.

Intel Xeon 6 Sierra Forest launches today

Intel's customers/partners are focusing on the Xeon 6700E series for delivering great power efficiency in the data center. It's a common theme with the "cloud native" focus. The Intel Xeon 6700E series is going up against current AMD EPYC "Bergamo" processors in this area currently with its Zen 4C cores. Additionally, betting all their cards on cloud native, is Ampere Computing. The Intel Xeon 6700E series should be easily able to run laps around aging Ampere Altra processors that allow up to 128 cores per socket. The Intel Xeon 6700E series should deliver much better performance and power efficiency than the Ampere Altra processors that are hitting four years of age. With AmpereOne there is up to 192 cores per socket, but alas, in the middle of 2024 there still appears to be no widespread availability of AmpereOne processors. No independent reviews, no publicly available cloud instances, and no apparently readily available AmpereOne servers for ordering.

Intel Xeon 6700 and 6900 series

With AmpereOne not readily available, the Intel Xeon 6700E series lead for the moment in core count advantage. The current top-end AMD EPYC 9754 "Bergamo" SKU is 128 cores compared to 144 cores being available with the Xeon 6700E series. But with the Bergamo CPUs using Zen 4C cores there is SMT support for up to 256 threads per socket (no SMT/HT with E cores) plus Zen 4C cores boast AVX-512 and the other same ISA capabilities as Zen 4 to help out the EPYC 9754 in more AI/HPC workloads. As AMD confirmed yesterday, 5th Gen EPYC will be available in up to 196 cores / 384 threads per socket, but won't be available until sometime in H2. So as it stands right now for CPU availability, Intel is leading at least for a short period of time with Xeon 6700E series at 144 cores per socket until next-gen EPYC and whenever AmpereOne availability becomes real.

Intel Xeon 6700 and Xeon 6900 platform offerings

Catching me by surprise was the Intel Xeon 6700 series only supporting eight channel memory. With prior Linux patches confirming up to 12 channel memory for Granite Rapids I assumed that would be across the board. But it turns out the Intel Xeon 6700 series will have eight channel DDR5-6400 support while the Xeon 6900 series will sport 12 channel DDR5-6400 memory. AMD 4th Gen EPYC meanwhile has offered 12 channel memory across their product stack albeit at DDR5-4800 speeds. The Intel Xeon 6900 series will also offer 96 PCIe 5.0 lanes compared to 88 lanes with the 6700 series and also two more UPI 2.0 links with the Xeon 6900 series.

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