Intel have announced their “Nehalem” processors will be coming to market in Q1 2009, with 2, 4 or 8 cores. Nothing to spectacular there (see Sun’s OpenSPARC CPU to see how to really scale with cores) but moving away from arguments about how multi-cores are better, Nehalem uses Intel’s QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) and that’s of great interest to Silicon Graphics customers.
QPI will be used by both Nehalem Xeon processors and the upcoming Tukwila Itaniums. This means that SGI’s biggest class of box – the Altix 4700 – could in theory be perfectly happy with either newer Itaniums, or make the move to cheaper Nehalem Xeons.
The next generation of Altix ICE blades will definitely be sporting the new Xeon processors (along with double data rate (DDR) Infiniband), but it’s the scalability of the bigger Altix NUMA boxes that are of interest to many customers. Given the architecture can scale to 128TB of shared memory, and with installations running up to 4096+ cores, being able to shove 8-way CPUs per socket would be a massive shot in the arm to the system – along with the increases in memory density and cooler running that will come with the new processors.
Being able to shove the cheaper Xeons into the high end offerings also means Silicon Graphics can lower production costs and increase margin, which given the recent quarterly earnings reports can only be a good thing.