Today, I am going to talk about the existing Intel Westmere-EX processor family. Instead of this processor series being called the Intel Xeon 7600 series (as was originally expected by some), it is called the Intel Xeon E7 series, with separate model numbers for two socket, four socket and eight socket servers. This includes the E7-2800 series for two-socket servers, E7-4800 series for four-socket servers, and E7-8800 series for eight socket (or larger) servers.

The Intel Xeon E7 family processors have up to ten physical cores (plus hyper-threading in most models). They have four Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) 1.0 links and two memory controllers, which each have two dual-channel interfaces per memory controller. Their memory controllers support the still very expensive 32GB DIMMs and low-power memory modules. This means that a four socket system can support up to 2TB of RAM, while an eight-socket system can support up to 4TB of RAM (which is the current operating system limit for Windows Server 2012).  Of course, you will need pretty deep pockets to do that, because 32GB DDR3 RDIMMs are still very expensive in early 2013 compared to 16GB DDR3 RDIMMs. Using the on-board memory buffer, the E7 processors can run DDR3-1333 memory at data rates of 800, 978 and 1066 MHz.  The E7 processor family supports AES instructions, Trusted Execution Technology, and  VT-x, VT-d and VT-c virtualization features. They only have PCI-E 2.0 support.

Intel claims up to 40% better database performance for the top of the line E7-4870 model in comparison to the previous generation Xeon X7560 model for four-socket servers. Performance of the E7-4870 CPU in integer and floating-point applications is better than the X7560 by up to 22% and 19% respectively. The E7 processors are socket compatible with the earlier Xeon 7500 processors, which means that existing systems from your favorite server vendor were able to use them as soon as they became available back in Q2 of 2011.

While these processors may sound impressive, they are actually not the best choice for most OLTP workloads, due to their older architecture, slower clock speeds, and lack of PCI-E 3.0 support compared to the newer Intel Xeon E5-2600 and E5-4600 series (Sandy Bridge-EP). They are also quite expensive, with the E7-8870 model going for $4616.00 each. They are very expensive to license for SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition, with their ten physical cores for each processor. They are well-suited to data warehouse workloads and non-database virtualization workloads because of their high core counts, large L3 caches, and high memory capacity.

The upcoming E7 v2 (Ivy Bridge-EX) processors, due in Q3 of 2013 will be a significant improvement over the current E7 (Westmere-EX) line, jumping a full Tock release forward. They will have up to 15 physical cores, better memory controllers with higher memory capacity, and PCI-E 3.0 support.