Intel’s Ice Lake Xeon swings out at AMD’s Epyc Milan

Thirty-six individual models of the Ice Lake Xeon Scalable processor launch today, with immediate retail availability expected from major system vendors, including Supermicro, HPE, and Dell.
Enlarge / Thirty-six individual models of the Ice Lake Xeon Scalable processor launch today, with immediate retail availability expected from major system vendors, including Supermicro, HPE, and Dell.

Intel today released a new batch of third-generation Xeon server processors. Significantly, these are Ice Lake processors – that is, Intel’s 10nm process, not the increasingly outdated 14nm process that most of Intel’s lineup has been stuck with for many years.

Today’s selection includes a staggering 36 separate SKUs, ranging from the 8-core Xeon Silver 4309Y to the 40-core Xeon Platinum 8380.

Performance improvement from generation to generation

There’s no question that today’s Ice Lake Xeons are a significant and much-needed upgrade to Intel’s line of servers. Similar to Intel’s Ice Lake laptop parts, the clock speeds are lower than the older 14nm parts, but the IPC has risen more than enough to compensate and unlike laptop parts Ice Lake, these Xeons usually count plus cores than the last few generations, rather than less.

We haven’t had a chance to get down to business with today’s Ice Lake Xeons, but Anandtech did. When comparing today’s 40-core Xeon 8380 to the 2019 28-core Xeon 8280, single-threaded tests generally come out 3 to 15 percent in favor of the newer generation, and multi-threaded tests favor the newer part by 54 to 65 percent.

This, of course, ignores the elephant in the room: Intel’s real competition, which comes in the form of AMD Epyc processors. Despite the vast improvement that the Xeon 8380 is, it is still not enough to catch up with Epyc Milan, or even the old Epyc Rome.

Epyc 7662, 75F3, 7742, 7713, and 7763 easily outperform the 8380 on integer and floating-point multithreaded metrics. Epyc 75F3 and 7763 outperformed it in single threaded metrics too, and 75F3 did so by a fairly wide margin.

Function and efficiency improvements

With the new Ice Lake Xeons still significantly lagging behind AMD (and Ampere, an Arm-based server processor), Intel’s marketing strategy necessarily focuses on Intel-exclusive features and specific use cases rather than sheer force. .

Features like the AVX-512 Extended Instruction Set, Software Guard Extensions (SGX), and Optane DC Persistent Memory are only found on Intel systems, and can represent significant performance improvements or even critical needs for specifically designed workloads. .

The new generation of Xeon offers support for PCIe 4, 4TiB of DRAM (instead of 1TiB), a new SGX Enclave of 512GiB and a lower price. The 40-core Xeon 8380 costs “only” $ 8,100, compared to the 28-core Xeon 8280 at $ 10,100.

Xeon Platinum 8380 forgoes one feature compared to 8280: fewer individual plugs. You can build an 8380 system in one- or two-socket variants, while the 8280 also supports 4- and 8-socket platforms.

Although the 8380’s overall TDP has increased (270 W, compared to the 8280’s 205 W), the new part is still more efficient overall, at 6.75 W / core versus the 8280’s 7.3 W / core. The increase in efficiency becomes even more obvious when comparing SPECint or SPECfp per watt scores.


Between the limited availability of first-gen Ice Lake laptop CPUs and the limited availability of previous batches of third-gen Xeon Scalable, we definitely had concerns about the availability of this newer batch of Ice Lake Xeons.

We spoke with Supermicro Senior Vice President Vik Malyala about the new systems, and he told us that Supermicro will be able to ship new Ice Lake-based servers in sufficient quantity to meet demand.

Trendforce industry analysts agree, stating that the new Ice Lake CPUs will likely account for 40 percent of Intel’s total CPU shipments in Q4 2021. Trendforce also notes that despite the imposing performance of AMD and energy efficiency advantages under load, Intel retains a 92 percent market share in the x86 server segment.

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