Intel today (December 14) launched Emerald Rapids, its 5th Generation Xeon CPU, which features up to 64 cores and 40% better performance than its predecessor. The processor packs a raft of additional improvements that Intel says will help service the growing compute demands of AI.
The latest iteration of Intel’s high-end CPUs for enterprise servers was welcomed by industry experts. The launch follows a bumpy period for the company that was marred by execution challenges, including notable delays in the release of both 3rd and 4th-generation Xeon chipsets.
Emerald Rapids: Key Stats
The 5th Generation Xeon is being positioned as a processor that’s designed for AI. Featuring up to 64 cores, Emerald Rapids promises 42% higher performance on AI inference and 21% general compute performance gains when compared to the prior generation, Sapphire Rapids.
According to Intel, the processor features workload-optimized performance, improved energy efficiency, and 36% higher performance per watt across a range of workloads.
At a press event at Intel’s Hillsboro, Oregon, campus earlier this month, Lisa Spelman, corporate vice president and general manager of Xeon products and solutions, said: “The Xeon journey has been a continuous evolution and investment in both our hardware and our software portfolio. And it’s those years of investment on both sides that have led us to where we are today.”
“Emerald Rapids takes Sapphire Rapids, and moves it forward,” added Ronak Singhal, a senior principal engineer at Intel. “One of the biggest changes we have on Emerald Rapids is a significantly larger last-level cache, and that plays out with some of the real-world workload performance [improvements].”
Xeon 5th Gen Launch: Industry Response
Data center and hardware analysts welcomed the launch of Intel Emerald Rapids, which follows a series of product setbacks for the company over recent years.
Karl Freund, founder and principal analyst at Cambrian AI Research, said Emerald Rapids would mark a solid upgrade for enterprise customers.
“The 5th Gen Xeon is a great step forward for Intel, demonstrating their newfound ability to stick to schedule and product roadmaps,” Freund told Data Center Knowledge. “The chip has more cores, a lot more cache, and is a good upgrade for clients who still have a lot of older Xeon infrastructure.”
He added: “For those who can wait or need more performance, Gen 6 is coming next year with more cores and significantly more performance.”
Bob O’Donnell, president and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research, said: “While most people are focused on GPUs for the data center, it’s easy to forget that CPUs still do a huge amount of the work when it comes to things like AI inferencing workloads.
“To that end, having Intel move the needle forward with their latest Xeon CPUs is an important, but unappreciated step in improving compute performance. Plus, their new architecture is delivering advancements in energy efficiency, and that’s critical in an era when data centers are starting to represent a significant percentage of the world’s power consumption.”
Dylan Patel, chief analyst at SemiAnalysis, a semiconductor research and consulting firm, has been tracking the development of Intel’s hardware architecture. While he welcomed the double-digit performance improvement in the latest Xeon chipset, he said Emerald Rapids fell somewhat short of expectations from a manufacturing standpoint.
“This product shows that they have cleaned the pipes on their new design methodologies, but it does not use any of the new process technologies or packaging technologies that Intel has been talking up as part of their turnaround,” Patel told Data Center Knowledge. “In general, Emerald Rapids is a very incremental release, but it does improve performance by double digits and reduces manufacturing costs.”
Vladimir Galabov, research director at Omdia’s cloud and data center unit, praised Intel’s “solid manufacturing execution, processor design improvements, and workload optimizations.”
“This is all very good news for Intel, given that they have got their mojo back with the new Xeon CPU, and have ramped up their foundry business,” Galabov said. “After a few challenging years, Intel looks to be on a solid path to growth.”
While the market has plenty to get its teeth into with the launch of Emerald Rapids, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said work was “well underway” on the next Xeon launches, Granite Rapids and Sierra Forest, the latter of which will feature 288 cores.
“We’re excited because not only is Emerald going to be a great product, but we’re well underway on Granite and Sierra Forest,” Gelsinger said during the pre-launch event earlier this month. “I’m driving the team like crazy to get those accelerated into the marketplace.”