New Server Platforms Boost Storage Performance

Last week, Intel announced its next generation of high-performance Xeon-based server platforms. Based on the new 3.6GHz Xeon processors, which introduced Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology to the Xeon product line, the new platforms use the much awaited Intel Server Board SE7520AF2. Accompanying the new server platforms is a new generation of I/O processors (IOPs), which Intel claims provide significant performance improvements and reduce power consumption.

The Intel IOP332 IOP, with its Intel XScale microarchitecture, supports up to 2GB of registered DDR2 400 memory, which Intel claims allows a 20 percent increase in memory bandwidth and up to a 40 percent reduction in power consumption compared with the previous generation IOP and its DDR 333 memory. (The IOP332 will also support unregistered DDR 333 memory.) The IOP332 adds support for an 800MHz Xscale core, which, together with a new 800MHz system bus, will provide 50 percent more bandwidth between the chipset and the Xeon processors, according to Intel.

An integrated PCI Express-to-PCI Extended (PCI-X) bridge will reduce latency, often considered the Achilles heel of the PCI-X design. Given the importance of PCI Express in support of technologies such as Internet SCSI (iSCSI), RAID cards, and Fibre Channel cards, lower latency will be a significant benefit.

The IOP332 also includes RAID5 Exclusive OR (XOR) and iSCSI CRC32C application acceleration engines to further enhance performance of RAID and iSCSI implementations. These hardware-based acceleration engines support the IOP332's two direct memory access (DMA) channels. Thus, all DMA transfers--especially iSCSi transfers, which require a cyclical redundancy check (CRC) calculation on data--benefit from the performance boost that the acceleration engines provide to all block data transfers.

Why is this technology important to IT pros who are responsible for storage? For a couple of reasons. First, these IOPs will soon appear in servers that you buy, and the high-performance architecture should significantly speed the flow of data between storage and applications. Second, in addition to serving as a component of high-end motherboard chipsets, Intel's IOP family of processors can be used as a standalone technology to create an integrated single-chip I/O solution for networked storage devices. Consequently, you'll soon see storage-specific products that use the IOP332. Those who manage high-heat, high-power-consumption environments, such as densely packed rack-mounted servers or blade servers, will also welcome the IOP332's 40 percent reduction in required power.

Understanding the detailed hardware technologies that interact with storage systems gives you an advantage when evaluating storage-technology products that your business is considering for adoption. The resources below can help you build that understanding.

Find complete details on the IOP332 at http://www.intel.com/design/iio/iop332.htm?iid=HPAGE+low_prod_040730&

For information about the entire Intel IOP line, go to http://www.intel.com/design/iio/

The server platform announcement is available at http://www.intel.com/pressroom/archive/releases/20040802comp.htm

Details about the Intel Server Board SE7520AF2 are at http://www.intel.com/design/servers/boards/se7520af2

For complete technical information on Intel's XScale Technology, download the "Intel I/O Processors Based on Intel XScale Technology" whitepaper at http://www.intel.com/design/network/papers/252869.htm

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