The range of CPU performance afforded by Intel® Architecture (IA) processors has continued to grow and the Intel® Xeon® processor 5600 series will further stretch the capabilities at the high end of the IA family. Members of the 5600 series integrate as many as 6 processing cores. Moreover the products support the Intel® QuickPath Technology that launched on prior Nehalem microarchitecture Xeon processors. The new processor also comes with new support ICs including the Intel® 5520 I/O hub that uses PCIe Gen2 connections to link with 1-Gbps or 10-Gbps Ethernet controllers.

 

The new 32-nm designs will bring unprecedented performance to embedded applications such as communication systems that can leverage the greater number of cores, the interprocessor communications ability, and the new AES Instructions for data security. I wrote about the news AES instructions recently, and that extension is available on a range of 32-nm processors including the new 5600 series as well as the Intel® Core i3, i5, and i7 families. For more information on QuickPath and the Intel® QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) check my prior story on NUMA multiprocessor architectures. QPI is only integrated into the Xeon series.

 

The advantage of six cores is pretty self evident in performance-intensive applications such as communications appliances that process packets of data. The processing task can be spread across many cores. Moreover the 5600 series supports Intel® Hyper-Threading technology meaning that 12 threads can execute simultaneously on a 6-core processor. The processors also support Intel® Virtualization Technology so a design can run different operation systems simultaneously on one processor and even dedicate a core to an operating system. In a communication application, you might have a general operating system such as Windows handle a user interface while a real-time operating system manages the packet processing tasks.

 

For more information on the 5600 series, review the embedded-specific product brief on the family, and you might also review the full product brief that discusses the applications of the 5600 series in server applications.

 

Not surprisingly, embedded specialists that target the communications sector have been quick to deploy the 5600 series. For example, Emerson Network Power Embedded Computing* recently announced two ATCA blades based on the 5600 series that target applications such as LTE and WiMax wireless base stations.

 

Portwell**, meanwhile, has announced a network appliance based on the 5600 series. The NAR-7102 1U rack-mount system integrates dual 5600-series processors and targets applications such as firewall, anti-virus, VPN, and content-filtering applications.

 

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Portwell product manager Mark Huang points out that it's the combination of the 5600 series processors, the PCIe Gen2 support and 10-Gbps Ethernet support that delivers the performance advantages. Indeed the Portwell system supports a variety of network options.

 

Huang stated, " The NAR-7102 also supports a varied selection of Portwell Ethernet modules, including two-port 10G SFP+ based on Intel’s 82599 controller, eight or four-port GbE copper or fiber based on the Intel 82580 controller or eight-port copper based on the Cavium CN-5640 8-core security acceleration module.” Huang points out that the design improves layer-3 network throughput via the PCIe Gen2 link to the 5520.

 

Other features of the NAR-7102 include 10 DIMM slots for up to 80 Gbytes of memory, dual 1-Gbps Ethernet management ports, and a PCIe expansion slot, The system also includes a 1+1 redundant 275W power supply.

 

Portwell can't specifically attribute quantitative performance gains to the individual elements that comprise the new NAR-7102 system. But at the system level, the company has witnessed a 15 to 25\% throughput gain in IPSec VPN applications.

 

The company also expects an advantage from the AES instructions in the new processor series. “NAR-7102’s ability to support Intel’s AES instruction sets will really benefit our customers,” said Frank Shen, American Portwell’s product marketing director. “AES provides important security benefits because it not only enables the NAR-7102 to ensure fast and secure data encryption and decryption, but it also offers a significant increase in performance when compared with current pure software implementations.

 

Have you had the chance to examine the 5600 series capabilities? The QPI feature has been available for some time now. How have you leveraged the QPI capabilities? Can you quantify performance gains in your system designs? Please share your experience via a comment with other followers of the Intel® Embedded Community.

 

Maury Wright

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)

Intel® Embedded Alliance

 

*Emerson Network Power Embedded Computing is a Premier Member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance

**Portwell is an Associate Member of The Alliance.