Intel's Nocona Xeon / Supermicro SuperServer 7044A-82R
Posted on: 08/21/2004 05:00 AM

While reviewing Intel's last two Xeon processors, one thing I continually stressed was Intel's need to increase the speed of the front-side bus (FSB). With two physical and four logical processors sharing a 533MHz FSB, the bottleneck was quite evident. An 800MHz FSB did wonders for the Pentium 4 and it would surely do the same for the Xeon, right? Well, Intel answered the call with its long-anticipated Nocona Xeon processor. While the increased FSB was an important specification improvement, it wasn't the feature that really grabbed the headlines. Since AMD's Opteron hit the market in early 2003, everyone has been enamored with 64-bit processing. As a result, Intel decided to bring that capability to its lower-end server/workstation processor with the release of Nocona.

64-bit? 800MHz FSB? What else could Intel possibly add with this latest Xeon processor? Intel certainly didn't stop there as they made a decision to really bring the Xeon line "up to speed", so to speak. Other additions include support for DDR-II memory and PCI Express.

To this point others have taken a look at Nocona and the results generally showed that while Intel had made progress, performance still lags behind that of AMD's Opteron. Finally, we get to look at this new product through our own eyes and make some of the observations that you have come to expect and appreciate. Initially, I assumed Intel would send me just the processors and I would acquire the other components through other manufacturers that we have a standing relationship with. Ultimately this isn't what happened. Out of no where, a complete Nocona-based server showed up at my door from Supermicro. As such, this review gets all the more interesting as we not only get to talk about this new 64-bit processor but also a complete server and the hardware included within. We'll have lots of pictures for you to digest and drool over, along with the benchmarks you've grown accustomed to. You might want to get comfortable, because I'm assuming you'll be sitting there for awhile. Let's dig in, shall we?

Nocona Xeon Specifications

  • Architecture: 90nm process technology
  • L Cache: L2 - 1MB, L3 - N/A
  • Clock Speeds: 2.80 - 3.6GHz
  • Server Chipsets: Intel E7520 and E7320
  • Workstation Chipsets: Intel E7525 (formerly codenamed "Tumwater")
  • Front Side Bus: 800MHz
  • I/O Bandwidth: Up to 6.4GB/second, PCI Express* I/O, PCI Express* x16 Graphics
  • Memory Requirements: Dual Channel DDR and DDR2
  • Feature List: Hyper-Threading, IntelÆ Extended Memory 64 Technology, Demand Based Switching with Enhanced Intel SpeedStepÆ Technology and Streaming SIMD Extensions 3 (SSE3)

With the last of the 533MHz FSB Xeons, Intel decided to slap even more L3 cache on the processor to help offset the plodding FSB. We see with Nocona, that since the FSB has been increased to 800MHz, the need for all of that L3 cache seems to have decreased. As a result, the Nocona has no L3 cache on-die and has only 1MB of L2 cache at its disposal. The only other notables from the Specs are the inclusion of Intel's Extended Memory64 Technology (EM64T) and of course, PCI Express, which we will touch on in a moment.

Supermico SuperServer 7044A-82R Specifications

  • Processors: Supports up to two Intel Xeon processor(s) with EM64T and 1MB L2 Integrated Advanced Transfer Cache up to 3.60 GHz
  • Memory Capacity: Eight 240-pin DIMM sockets - Supports up to 16 GB Registered ECC DDRII-400 memory - Memory must be populated in pairs
  • Chipset: IntelÆ E7525 chipset - MCH + ICH5R + PXH +82546GB
  • SATA: ICH5R SATA Controller, RAID 0, 1, JBOD support
  • SCSI/RAID: Adaptec AIC-7902 Controller Dual-Channel Ultra320 SCSI Host RAID 0, 1, 10, JBOD support, Support for Zero-Channel RAID w/ Adaptec 2010S ZCR Card
  • SCSI Backplane: 5 x 1" SCSI Backplane w/ SAF-TE
  • Network Controllers: IntelÆ 82546GB Dual Port Gigabit Controller
  • Expansion Slots: 1 x16 PCI Express, 1 x4 PCI Express (x16 slot), 1 64-bit/133MHz PCI-X, 1 64-bit/100MHz PCI-X, 1 32-bit/33MHz PCI
  • Chassis: SC942i-R760
  • Power Supply: 760W Triple-redundant AC power supply w/ PFC [24-pin, (4-pin, 8-pin) = 12V]

The 7044A-82R is quite a beast. The first thing you'll notice about the unit when you take it out of the box is that it weighs about 65 lbs and it's built to last. The unit shipped to me was outfitted with 2x 3.6GHz Noconas with 2GB of Registered/ECC DDRII-400 and an 18GB Seagate X15 36LP stored in one of the hot-swap bays in the front of the unit. While this is listed as a SuperServer, I should add that the unit also shipped with a PCI Express NVIDIA Quadro FX so it could certainly handle double duty as a workstation. One thing that might go unnoticed by most, but certainly not by me is the inclusion of an Intel Dual Port Gigabit NIC. In a server environment, this could certainly be put to good use.

Now that we've gone through the specifications, let's take a few moments to run through PCI Express and EM64T since they are the main technological improvements to the Xeon platform.

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