For Day 14 of this series, I want to give my current recommended Intel Xeon server processors for different sizes of database servers and different workload types.

My basic premise is that for a database server running SQL Server 2008 R2 or earlier, you want the very best processor available for each physical socket in the server (since SQL Server 2008 R2 Processor licenses are relatively expensive). With SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition, you need to worry about the physical core counts in your processors, so there are some situations where you might want to choose a “frequency-optimized” model processor that has fewer physical cores but a higher base clock speed than the top-tier processor that has a higher number of physical cores. An example would be choosing a four-core Intel Xeon E5-2643 instead of an eight-core Xeon E5-2690 processor.

Unlike a laptop or web server, you usually don’t want to pick a processor for a database server that is one or two models down from the most expensive, “top of the line” model. With SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition, you certainly don’t want to select a slower speed, less expensive processor that has the same number of physical cores as a slightly more expensive processor from that same processor family and generation.

You will most likely be stuck with whatever processor you choose for the life of the server, since it rarely makes economic sense to upgrade the processors in an existing server. You can also use any “excess” processor capacity for things like data compression or backup compression, to reduce the pressure on your I/O subsystem. Trading CPU utilization for I/O utilization is usually a net win, especially if you have a modern, multi-core processor that can shrug off the extra work.

These recommendations will change when the Xeon E3-1200 v3 series is released in June 2013, and again when the E5-2600 v2 series is released in Q3 of 2013 and the E7-2800, 4800 and 8800 v2 series are released in Q4 of 2013.

So here is my recommended Intel Xeon server processor list:

One-socket server (OLTP workloads)
Xeon E3-1290 v2 (22nm Ivy Bridge)
•    3.7GHz, 8MB L3 Cache, 5.0 GT/s Intel QPI 1.1
•    Four-cores plus hyper-threading, Turbo Boost 2.0 (4.1GHz)
•    Two memory channels, 32GB max memory capacity

One-socket server (DW/DSS workloads)
Xeon E5-2470 (32nm Sandy Bridge-EN)
•    2.3GHz, 20MB L3 Cache, 8.0 GT/s Intel QPI 1.1
•    Eight-cores plus hyper-threading, Turbo Boost 2.0 (3.1GHz)
•    Three memory channels, 96GB max memory capacity

Two-socket server (OLTP workloads)
Xeon E5-2690 (32nm Sandy Bridge-EP)
•    2.9GHz, 20MB L3 Cache, 8.0 GT/s Intel QPI 1.1
•    Eight-cores plus hyper-threading, Turbo Boost 2.0 (3.8GHz)
•    Four memory channels, 384GB max memory capacity (16GB DIMMs)

Two-socket server (DW/DSS workloads)
Xeon E7-2870 (32nm Westmere-EX)
•    2.40GHz, 30MB L3 Cache, 6.40 GT/s Intel QPI 1.0
•    Ten-cores plus hyper-threading, Turbo Boost 2.0 (2.8GHz)
•    Four memory channels, 512GB max memory capacity (16GB DIMMs)

Four-socket server (OLTP workloads)
Xeon E5-4650 (32nm Sandy Bridge-EP)
•    2.7GHz, 20MB L3 Cache, 8.0 GT/s Intel QPI 1.1
•    Eight-cores plus hyper-threading, Turbo Boost 2.0 (3.3GHz)
•    Four memory channels, 768GB max memory capacity (16GB DIMMs)

Four-socket server (DW/DSS workloads)
Xeon E7-4870 (32nm Westmere-EX)
•    2.40GHz, 30MB L3 Cache, 6.40 GT/s Intel QPI 1.0
•    Ten-cores plus hyper-threading, Turbo Boost 2.0 (2.8GHz)
•    Four memory channels, 1TB max memory capacity (16GB DIMMs)

Eight-socket server (Any workload type)
Xeon E7-8870 (32nm Westmere-EX)
•    2.40GHz, 30MB L3 Cache, 6.40 GT/s Intel QPI 1.0
•    Ten-cores plus hyper-threading, Turbo Boost 2.0 (2.8GHz)
•    Four memory channels, 2TB max memory capacity