A few weeks ago, we heard rumors of an upcoming Cascade Lake refresh cycle that would do for Intel’s server Xeon CPUs what the HEDT refresh did in November — namely, slash per-core pricing and improve their overall value proposition to better compete against AMD’s Epyc. Intel would have originally announced these chips at MWC, but coronavirus led to the show being canceled. The chips, on the other hand, are launching on-schedule and with immediate availability.
Intel’s comparison slide below is a bit of a dodge, since it compares against first-gen Xeon Scalable parts rather than the second-gen parts it already launched, but only a bit. Taking an axe to per-core pricing boosts the value proposition no matter what, and that’s what Intel has done here.
For example: The Xeon Gold 6254 is an 18C/36T CPU with a 3.1/4.0GHz clock, 24.75MB of L3, and a 200W TDP. Official list price? $3,803, or $211 per core. The new Xeon Gold 6258R is a 28-core CPU at 2.7/4.0GHz, 38.5MB of L3, and a 205W TDP. Price is $3,950, or $141 per core. Changes like this allow Intel to cut prices without actually cutting prices. There are no new Platinum Xeons in this launch, but there are new entries in the Bronze, Silver, and Gold families. In some cases, the savings are considerable. The new Xeon Gold 6238R is identical to the Xeon Platinum 8276 in all but two respects. Both are 28C/56T CPUs at 2.2/4.0GHz with 38.5MB of L3 cache and a 165W TDP.
The only difference is the number of MP sockets they support and the price. The 6258R is a $2,612 CPU that’s limited to dual-socket operation, while the 8276 is an $8,719 CPU that supports up to 8-socket boards. If you don’t need to scale above dual sockets you can save $12,274 with the new chips compared with the old. That’s a much better deal no matter how you slice it.
There are also some interesting chips in the lineup, like the Xeon Gold 6250. With a 3.9GHz base clock, 4.5GHz boost, eight cores, and 35.75MB of L3 cache, the 6250 is clearly designed for less-threaded workloads that respond well to clock and huge cache storage. Typically, a modern Xeon offers between 1.375MB – 1.78MB of L3 cache per core, depending on the SKU. The 6250 offers 4.46MB of L3 per core, implying these chips are built with specific customers in mind who can benefit from it.
Overall, these price cuts and value improvements are part of Intel’s overall response to AMD’s third-generation Epyc, Threadripper, and Ryzen CPUs. Both companies have claimed recent data center wins. AMD’s market share in servers increased in Q4 2019, while Intel reported record data center revenue and revenue growth.
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