back to article Years late and 36 cores short of AMD, who are Intel’s 4th-gen Xeons even for?

After countless delays, Intel's long awaited Sapphire Rapids Xeon Scalable processors are finally here, but who are they for? Intel's 4th-gen Xeons are launching into arguably the most competitive CPU market in at least the past two decades. AMD is no longer the only threat. Ampere has steadily gained share among cloud, …

  1. Piro Silver badge

    late, expensive, slow

    Their only hope (which is something Intel has used a lot) is to use their muscle in the channel to "encourage" their partners to push their product

    1. Bitsminer Silver badge

      Re: late, expensive, slow

      Pick any two.

      1. Piro Silver badge

        Re: late, expensive, slow

        By the way, I was right, of course.

        HP's Synergy blade platform was rumoured to get EPYC options for Gen11, but now that's dead in the water, Intel-only, no doubt because Intel is struggling, they passed a large bag of cash (no doubt paid for through all the salary cuts) to HPE to keep people locked-in to Intel on their blade platform.

  2. terry 1

    All those cores, MS will be laughing all the way to the bank

    1. John 104

      And Oracle...

  3. Sgt_Oddball
    Holmes

    As a thought...

    Or three..

    1) If I bought one of these chips in a cheap, used server would I still be able to unlock extra features?

    2) If so would that price have changed?

    3) If the chips are no-longer supported directly by Intel would they provide the license to unlock this publicly? (like HP have done with old SAS raid arrays)

    4) If not, can I turn off the features and get a refund?

    5) Can a feature once unlocked be re-locked if required to say move the license onto a newer CPU down the line or is it locked to that chip?

    I could go on...

    1. Sgt_Oddball

      Re: As a thought...

      As an alternative...

      Considering the noted statement that most of these features are useless unless using software specifically to take advantage of the features, could Intel not partner up with the software providers so that the software companies are the ones to pony-up, hold licences etc for these features since it otherwise sounds like those companies are after a free lunch on someone else's expenses (also known as moving a CAPEX to an OPEX for accounting fun)? Sounds like Intel are potentially missing a trick and getting closer to those utilising these features.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As a thought...

        I think the knock on effect here will be that people simply won't buy the software that requires an additional license to be able to use it.

        I wouldn't in general practice.

        I think the minority of people that utilise the features that have large budgets probably won't care nor will they actually notice because it will be a checkbox during the server config that only the engineer speccing up the server will see.

        It's just a way for Intel to steal a few extra hundred dollars from a project budget at the expense of the engineers.

        As far as your average business is concerned, the budget they might set out for a server is, say, £30,000...which includes the labour to set it up as well as the hardware etc.

        If Intel charges to unlock features, the budget will still be £30,000...it's just that the few hundred required for a license will come out of the "labour" and not be added on top. This erosion of engineer profits has been happening for a long time now.

        The only way to stop this sort of practice is for engineers to stop recommending Intel products and avoid them everywhere possible.

        It used to be the case that Intel, Dell, Microsoft et al would offer commission to engineers that recommended their products...somewhere along the line they decided they didn't want to look after the techies that looked after them and dropped commissions. Now it seems they want to go a step further and start taking money off engineers for recommending their kit.

        Fuck that.

        I moved to AMD servers a while ago, and I will stick there for the foreseeable future. Until we get wider availability and better pricing of ARM based kit.

        Before any permies step in and say "Won't affect my salary, they can't cut my pay!"...well, your annual payrise comes out of the annual tech budget. Your payrise will often be considered as part of the remaining budget after kit, purchases etc. You may not notice it immediately, but it will reduce your payrises over time and steal from you in the long run.

        1. teknopaul

          Re: As a thought...

          Doesn't that presume these payments have no return.

          Yes, price goes up it affects everyone. But if performance and profit go up, it affects everyone too, no?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: As a thought...

            No, not even close. Send you are not familiar with how corporations or budgets work.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As a thought...

      1) Yes, the question is if the original owner already paid will the licence transfer, or is the the beginning of Intel trying to make people play twice for hardware on the used market.

      3) No bets on that, a very good point I hadn't though of yet.

      4) Not bloody likely mate

      5) No information on license transferability in what I read, I can see why the people that will actually but these parts would want it, and they should start beating up their account managers for that and license management tools if they want to see them. Otherwise they will see pennies on the dollar when they sell the hardware in a few years. I imagine this would be important for both cloud operators as well as their clients, both of which will want to maximize their use of the licenses they purchased.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: As a thought...

      Going with the assumption that Intel will try and wring as much money from their customers as possible, my guesses to the answers are:

      1) maybe

      2) probably higher

      3) hahah nope.

      4) nope

      5) nope, buy another one each time

      Although, with 3, it's not impossible that in future someone will reverse-engineer the licensing making it possible to fully unlock chips. I'd assume Intel have done a pretty good job of locking it down, but who knows what reverse-engineering tools will be available in twenty years time?

  4. captain veg Silver badge

    NSP

    Anyone else remember Intel's old "Native Signal Processing" line that it was better to run code in its CPUs rather than dedicated co-processors?

    -A.

    1. nintendoeats Silver badge

      Re: NSP

      Obligatory jargon file entry: http://www.catb.org/esr/jargon/html/W/wheel-of-reincarnation.html

  5. msroadkill

    Chiplets compromise latency to gain well proven advantages in ~everything else.

    SR is half assed chiplets, w/ a slight latency advantage, & disadvantages in ~all else.

    AMD 8 core chiplets are in fact 2x 4 core chiplets - making the simple elegance of AMD's architecture even more contrasting.

    An interesting crossover point is the core limits of 2 socket genoa - 2 socket x96 = 192 core Genoa's vs ~4 socket x56 core SA. I very much doubt the intel option has better latency.

    They say that in this market, folks dont buy chips, they buy roadmaps, & Intel could hardly have done worse in this regard for many years.

    As the author says - AMD has now become the default choice in servers. As AMD inevitably resolves its supply shortages, it will be an interesting market.

    1. Bela Lubkin

      > AMD 8 core chiplets are in fact 2x 4 core chiplets

      That was Zen 2. Zen 3 & 4 chiplets are unified 8-core CCX / CCDs.

      1. Piro Silver badge

        Yup, that's how I've always understood it too.

  6. GiantKiwi

    Various genome projects in UK HEI's will be making use of them, because they're already bound to the ecosystem, and do not have the time to waste retooling to Zen, no matter the performance gains. Having had this discussion with one of the heads of technical for one said institution last year, they have no plan this decade to move away from Intel.

    1. Glen 1

      The trouble is, if Intel doesn't get a handle on this sharpish, there comes a point at which you're throwing good money after bad.

      Then other institutions outcompete you.

      1. Aitor 1

        Good money after bad

        Throwing good money after bad is not a big issue when someone else is paying.. you present a good looking project and your expenses might get covered.. no one is going to say in academia no, use amd instead. Not at that level, not yet.

    2. _olli

      One just wonders what "waste time for retooling to Zen" means nowadays ... doesn't that mean something like "recompile the fine software" ?

    3. John 104

      How does that even make sense? Intel has been stuck on Skylake for almost a decade for Xeon. This new chipset has nothing to do with the old crap, or, not enough to matter due to the age gap.

  7. systemBuilder22

    Looks like Intel is going whole-hog for CISC

    Looks like Intel has embraced CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computers). While I'm sure it keeps the VLSI engineers employed to design all these custom ASICs, I'd like to remind Intel that the last company to embrace CISC was Digital Equipment Company of Maynard Massachusetts. It did not end well for them! Beware, Intel! Your new server chips might be renamed "Itanium" or better yet, "Itanic".

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Looks like Intel is going whole-hog for CISC

      The same DEC that had it’s

      - Alpha Programme shut down by Compaq/HP favouring Intel JV with Itanium

      - Intel getting StrongARM/XScale and flogging it for a pittance to Marvell completely missing the mobile smartphone revolution as Atom for mobile was power hungry shite.

      … both of those catastrophic strategy error turned out well and Samsung, NVidia, Qualcomm, Apple, TSMC were huge benefactors.

  8. Mayday Silver badge
    Windows

    Primary capability use case

    Will it run Crysis?

    Or Windows 12 perhaps?

    1. molletts

      Re: Primary capability use case

      It'll probably be able to run Crysis with software rendering (see the various demos of this on Threadripper).

      As for Windows 12, its physical address space limits may be a little snug and you'll need a dual-socket system if you're going to have any cores left over for doing actual work ;)

    2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Primary capability use case

      "Intel's top-spec 60-core Xeon" ... will not sell well until Quake is recoded to make use of it.

  9. darklord
    Coat

    Nothing new here

    Been hearing for nigh on30 years how AMD are going to take over from Intel as number 1 chipmaker. It hasn't happened by now in a longer period than intel had the market to themselves and i doubt it ever will.

    1. BOFH in Training

      Re: Nothing new here

      They got close during the Athlon days except Intel played dirty with bribery and threats to keep AMD out.

      Let's see what happens if Intel is forced to play fair for a change.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unlock features for a fee?

    Pass.

    Looks like we're heading for loot crates on servers soon.

    Can't wait for my performance as a techie to measured by my battle pass progress.

    Level 19 Server - 15680XP

    Missions:

    Utilise 40% CPU for at least 30 minutes for 5 days - 3000XP

    Achieve a mild overclock over 2% and keep it stable for an hour - 5000XP

    Convince your boss to add more RAM - 10000XP

    Rewards:

    Level 20: Unlocks 16MB of cache.

    Level 21: Custom skin for your CPU for the monitoring dashboard (random choice of 5).

    Level 22: 10x Cryptographic acceleration tokens.

    Level 23: Silver Tier Loot Box x2 (random chance of any mid tier items).

    Level 24: 1x Loot Box key.

  11. Terry 6 Silver badge

    It's a strange industry..

    Are there any other industries where you buy a whole item but you have to pay extra to use bits of it.

    Welcome to your brand new fridge/freezer. If you would like the temperature to go below 2 degrees C please pay £350 to unlock our freeze+ package

    or

    Contents 350ml orange juice. If you would like to drink more than the first 250ml please pay 75p to unlock the full volume

    Though what BMW are doing with their vehicles sounds a bit like this. Then again, most modern cars are essentially computers on wheels so maybe it's not different.

  12. croc

    looking deeper into the SKUs, there is a 16 core variant for under 1000$. At 4 GHZ max boost, plus being unlocked.... Looks like a sweet spot to me. OH! OH! AND 80 pcie gen 5 lanes....

    1. Anonymous South African Coward

      16-core variant will do well in homelabbing and with cheap-ass bosses.

      "Whaddya mean it only have 16 cores, and you cannot unlock additional cores?"

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ....And Then There's The Question About The Origin Of The Silicon........

    @Tobias_Mann

    Quote: "... Intel's long awaited Sapphire Rapids Xeon Scalable processors..."

    But it's curious that neither Intel nor the writer of the El Reg piece.....neither mention which fab is creating these devices.

    Does the silicon come from an Intel fab........or is TSMC helping out?

    I think we should be told!

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