Intel Workshop - October 2005
Posted on: 10/10/2005 05:00 AM

Tomorrow: "Bensley" (and "Dempsey")

It is no big secret that the real reason Intel wanted us to attend the workshop was so we could check out their new "Bensley" and "Glidewell" platforms. "Bensley" is the next generation server platform, and "Glidewell" will be the workstation counterpart. Intel is pretty excited about their two latest creations, and from what we saw they have good reason to be.

"Bensley" is a pretty radical change from the current Xeon platform ("Irwindale"), and Intel has taken the opportunity to embrace some very different technologies.

The "Bensley" platform is made up of two major components. The processor, "Dempsey" and the chipset "Blackford". With this platform, Intel decided to give people the option to save a little money by introducing two versions of the "Blackford" chipset. Let me show you another picture, and then I'll go into more detail.

As you can see in the image above, there are a few significant, cost saving differences between chipset versions. The most notable difference is the number of memory channels on the "Blackford-VS" (two) compared to the regular "Blackford" chipset (four). The only other difference is the number of PCIe lanes available for slots and/or integrated peripherals.

If you looked closely at the image above, you might be wondering what in the world an "FB-DIMM" is. "FB" in this case stands for "Fully Buffered". A fully buffered DIMM adds an actual buffer on the PCB along with the normal DRAM. The buffer is useful for a lot of things including extended/enhanced ECC and (RAID1) memory mirroring, but the biggest reason FB-DIMMs are the wave of the future? Bandwidth and capacity, plain and simple.

Think of the buffer as you would think of the cache on a RAID controller. This cache allows data to be written to AND read from memory at the same time. Sort of like what DDR did for SDR. There is a latency penalty, but we'll save judgement on that for the final silicone.

As for capacity: FB-DIMMs will allow a maximum of 64gb of memory on the "Bensley" and "Glidewell" platforms. Quite a big jump from the 16gb limit on current Xeon platforms.


I mentioned that "Glidewell" will be the workstation counterpart to the "Bensley" server platform. The chipset for this platform, "Greencreek", is very similar to the "Blackford" chipsets that were mentioned above, save the addition of a PCIe x16 slot for graphics. Other than the graphics slot, the chipsets are basically the same.

Both platforms will be "plug-n-play" with the next generation "Woodcrest" (which we will elaborate on another time) processor, so you should be somewhat "future-proofed" into 2007 should you choose to upgrade to either platform.

As a side note, you can check out the rest of the pictures of the "Glidewell" test machines that we had access to in the labs by browsing the gallery (the blue motherboard).

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