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Intel Corporation Readies Next-Gen Skylake Server Chips for Mid-2017 Launch

By Ashraf Eassa – Nov 17, 2016 at 1:38PM

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Intel's Skylake-EP and associated Purley platform should arrive in mid-2017 to help drive the next leg of Intel's data-center growth.

At this year's Supercomputing conference, Intel (INTC 1.14%) made a few disclosures pertaining to future processors targeted at high-performance computing applications.

Image source: Intel. 

Among said disclosures was the announcement that the company's next-generation Xeon server processor, based on the Skylake architecture, would achieve "general availability" in the middle of 2017.

Mid-2017 is in line with previous leaks

Earlier leaks suggested that Intel was targeting a launch of these processors during the first half of 2017, so the chipmaker is on track to meet that schedule. Additionally, in an interview with The Next Platform, Intel's Charles Wuischpard said that "this doesn't mean we will not be shipping quite a few in volume before then," implying that select customers will get early access to the processors, probably through Intel's Early Ship program.

If we assume that the general availability of these processors occurs at the end of June 2017, then it will have taken Intel a year and a quarter to transition its server lineup from the older Broadwell architecture on the Grantley platform to the newer Skylake architecture on the newer Purley platform.

Putting that into the context of previous Intel server platform transitions, it took Intel two years to go from the Westmere-EP processor on the Tylersburg platform to Sandy Bridge-EP on the Romley platform, and one year to go from Ivy Bridge-EP on the Romley platform to Haswell-EP on the Grantley platform.

The Broadwell-EP to Skylake-EP transition ideally should have been a little quicker, but a year and a quarter isn't going to be a problem.

Skylake Xeon should be quite nice

The new Skylake-based Xeon processors should serve as quite nice improvements over the current Broadwell-based processors.

The new processors are expected to be manufactured in Intel's 14-nanometer+ technology, which the company said previously delivers a 12% performance improvement over the first-generation 14-nanometer technology. If that 12% manufacturing technology performance improvement directly translates into 12% better chip performance, manifested as increased clock speeds, then that'd be a win.

Additionally, the Skylake architecture is a new architecture that delivers a solid performance boost over the prior-generation Broadwell architecture, core-for-core, clock-for-clock.

The Skylake-EP processors, according to various leaks, are also expected to pack more cores than their Broadwell-EP predecessors, which should help to further boost performance and, potentially, what Intel can charge for its chips.

There's also the fact that the Skylake-based server chips will support a new technology called AVX-512, which Intel says should "boost floating point calculations [and] encryption algorithms." 

Image source: Intel. 

And, finally, the Purley platform that these new chips will require to work is expected to bring several new features relative to the older Grantley platform, including expanded USB and network connectivity.

Investment takeaway

At the end of the day, Intel's job with respect to new server processor launches is to achieve three basic things:

  1. Defend market share against impending competition from other vendors looking to enter the server chip market.
  2. Give current customers reasons to upgrade older systems at as rapid a clip as possible.
  3. Entice customers to buy a richer mix of products in any given generation than they did in prior generations.

I believe that the performance and feature improvements that the new Skylake chips and the associated platform bring to the table should be quite compelling and effective in achieving the three major goals outlined here.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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