20 Mar Intel Aggressively Updates Xeon And Announces Key 5G Product Lines

Last week Intel made waves with big announcements in two of its major growth areas. In the latest volley in the datacenter wars between Intel and AMD, it announced new additions to its Intel Xeon Scalable platform, optimized specifically for performance and performance-per-dollar. In 5G network infrastructure, Intel also announced a new 10nm SoC for wireless base stations and several other hardware and software offerings. Let’s take a closer look at what Intel announced and how it pertains to the company’s overall strategy.

Intel’s Diamond Mesa structured ASIC for 5G networks.
 INTEL

Last week Intel made waves with big announcements in two of its major growth areas. In the latest volley in the datacenter wars between Intel and AMD, it announced new additions to its Intel Xeon Scalable platform, optimized specifically for performance and performance-per-dollar. In 5G network infrastructure, Intel also announced a new 10nm SoC for wireless base stations and several other hardware and software offerings. Let’s take a closer look at what Intel announced and how it pertains to the company’s overall strategy.

Intel says the new Gold processors deliver, on average, 1.36X better performance and 1.42Xbetter performance-per-dollar than the first generation of Xeon Gold. Additionally, two of the new processors, the Gold 6256 and 6250, boast the highest server processor frequency currently on the market—a base and turbo frequency maxing out at 3.9 GHz and 4.5 GHz, respectively.

Intel says these frequencies make these offerings well-suited for financial trading, simulation and modeling, HPC and database applications—all of which are workloads that scale with clock frequency. Additionally, the company says the increase in cache size and core count optimizes these processors for applications such as virtualized clouds, hyper-converged infrastructure, and network function visualization, where capacity-per-server is a critical consideration. For mainstream deployments, Intel says its Gold 6200R and 5200R offerings are well suited with their higher base, increased cache, and Intel Turbo Boost Technology frequencies. For those looking for a processor for entry-level, edge, networking and IoT purposes, Intel says its Xeon Gold 6200U, Silver 4200R, Silver 2310, and Bronze 3200R drive business value and expand capabilities. In short, there’s something for everyone with these new processors.

I like all of the messages that are being delivered here and I am anxiously awaiting deeper analysis on how competitively this stacks up. I know that analyst Matt Kimball is diving into this but Intel changed so many things that it may take a while. Overall, I am very impressed that Intel came out fighting and isn’t willing to give an inch, unlike the desktop market.

An expansion of 5G networking infrastructure offerings

The second big area of news was in 5G networking infrastructure, where Intel announced a variety of hardware and software additions to its portfolio. I am on record saying that Intel’s networking biz will be its biggest growth driver in 2020 and the company is not letting me down. First announced was its new Intel Atom P5900 platform, an architecture-based 10nm SoC designed for wireless base stations (a first from Intel). Intel says this SoC was designed specifically to meet the high-bandwidth and low-latency needs of 5G networks, now and into the future. Don’t think of this Atom as the autumn of the past. This Adam is completely rearchitected from the ground up and has identical feature sets to it big brother Xeon.

Intel’s goal is to be the leading provider of silicon in 5G base stations by 2021, of which there are predicted to be around 6 million by 2024. This is a one year pull-in of that goal which is impressive. In other words, this is a huge growth opportunity for Intel, and the Atom P5900 represents a crucial play by the company to take advantage of it. The company says it is cooperating with leading providers to deliver the Atom P9500 to market as part of its future-differentiated solutions. 

Intel also unveiled its first next-generation structured ASIC for the acceleration of 5G networks, code-named “Diamond Mesa,” which is now open to early access customers. The company says Diamond Mesa bolsters Intel’s portfolio of processors and FPGAs to help deliver high performance and low latency for 5G networks. Some workloads don’t need the full programmability that FPGAs bring to the table—for those, structured ASICs seek to offer a less risky optimization path to increase performance efficiency. Intel says this adds to its value proposition by making it the only provider capable of delivering a “full silicon platform foundation for network infrastructure.”

Lastly for new hardware, Intel launched its first 5G-optimized Ethernet NIC, the Intel Ethernet 700 Series Network Adapter with hardware-enhanced Precision Time Protocol, or PTP, an offering code-named “Edgewater Channel.” The 700 series promises to deliver GPS-based cross-network service synchronization with hardware-enhanced PTP, in order to meet the demanding latency requirements of 5G networks. Intel says the offering will enable providers to maintain accurate time synchronization across their networks, in a cost-efficient manner. 

I love, love, love Intel’s CPU, FPGA, ASIC, and structured ASIC approach. Literally, this sets the stage that the company doesn’t always have to have the best point solution but they can take people from start to finish.

Software

In the software side, which never gets enough attention, Intel also announced that its Open Network Edge Services Software (or OpenNESS) toolkit will now support standalone 5GNR and Enhanced Platform Awareness deployments. The company says this will enable customers to easily deploy cloud-native edge micro-services. Additionally, Intel says it is accelerating custom 5G networks through the delivery of customized OpenNESS experience kits.

In the next few weeks, I plan on diving into a few edge related Intel announcements that didn’t get a lot of attention.

Wrapping up

All in all, it was quite a slew of announcements. I think the enhanced Xeon Scalable Platform offerings is a smart, competitive move—obviously Intel has to keep innovating and improving to beat back AMD, who is eager to continue chipping away at Intel’s silicon leadership. Additionally, Intel’s broadening of its 5G network infrastructure portfolio comes at a prescient time where it should be able to make serious inroads in its goal to be the leading silicon provider in the 5G infrastructure market by next year. Nice work, Intel, very impressed.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.