Intel Xeon E7 v3 Product Family Released

On May 5, 2015, Intel announced the new E7 v3 Product Family, which is also known as the Haswell-EX, which is meant for four and eight-socket servers. This 22nm processor is a Tock release (which means that it is using a new processor microarchitecture compared to the previous 22nm Ivy Bridge-EX). An updated graphic that outlines the Tick-Tock development history for the Xeon 7xxx and E7 families is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Intel Tick-Tock Development Model

Intel only has 12 different processors in this product family, and of these, only four are really good choices from a licensing cost and performance perspective for SQL Server 2012 and newer. These are shown in Table 1.

Processor Cores Base Clock Turbo Clock L3 Size QPI Speed
E7-8893 v3 4 3.2 GHz 3.5 GHz 45 MB 9.6 GT/s
E7-8891 v3 10 2.8 GHz 3.5 GHz 45 MB 9.6 GT/s
E7-8867 v3 16 2.5 GHz 3.3 GHz 45 MB 9.6 GT/s
E7-8890 v3 18 2.5 GHz 3.3 GHz 45 MB 9.6 GT/s

Table 1: Preferred Xeon E7 v3 Family Processors for SQL Server 2012/2014/2016

I make this assertion because of how SQL Server 2012 and newer core-based licensing works. You pay for the number of physical cores in your system (on non-virtualized servers), and Microsoft does not care whether your processor cores are slow or fast, the license price is the same either way. Given this basic fact, you really should pick processors with faster cores (better single-threaded performance) at the same physical core count, to get the most performance possible for a given licensing cost. In some cases, you may be able get away with a lower core count processor that has faster individual cores, and still be able to support a similar overall total workload at a much lower SQL Server licensing cost.

The other eight processors in the E7 v3 Product Family all have lower specifications (at the same core count) than the four in my preferred list, so they are bad choices in my opinion. If you or someone else in your organization picks one of those other eight processors, you are not making a good choice. I am guessing that some people may argue that the slower processors at a given core count are less expensive, so they make sense in some situations.

My response would be that when you are talking about four or eight, high core count processors, the SQL Server 2012 and newer license costs are going to far outweigh the relatively small difference in the cost of a given processor. The single-threaded performance difference between a 2.1 GHz Xeon E7-8870 v3 ($7,175 each) and a 2.5 GHz Xeon E7-8890 v3 ($4,672 each) is likely to be about 20%, while the difference in total system cost will be much less than 20%.

You may notice that all of my recommended E7 v3 processors are E7-88xx processors, which means they are designed for eight-socket servers. That does not mean that you have to use them in an eight-socket server. You can actually use those E7-88xx processors in four-socket servers, which are much more common and much less expensive.

15 thoughts on “Intel Xeon E7 v3 Product Family Released

  1. Could 4x4cores CPUs be a smarter setup compare to 2x8cores server because of larger cache ?
    We are using SPLA license model and it´s really expensive on SQL servers.

  2. It might be. It would depend on the exact processors in question, and whether you were thinking about a two-socket server with both sockets populated or a four-socket server with two sockets populated. Even with NUMA, there is some scalability loss as you add more sockets (so a four-socket system will not have twice the capacity of a two-socket system with the exact same processors)

  3. I was thinking about a Dell R730xd with two Intel E5-2667 v3 (3,2Ghz/8cores/20MB cache) compare to Dell R930 with 4xE7-8893 v3.
    Max mem in R730 is 768Gb, R930 will takes alot of mem, so probalby all databases is possible to cache in RAM too get less physical read IO.

    Thanks, Magnus

  4. I think I would be thinking about a Dell R930 in that situation. Just be aware that the hardware cost will be quite a bit higher, with four E7 v3 processors vs. two E5 v3 processors, plus the base cost difference between an R730xd and an R930.

  5. Glen, do you have any article on the costs of running a virtualized SQL server over Hyper-V (w/Virtual Fibre Channel) on top of any of these “monster” CPU/Servers (16-18 Cores).

    1. No articles on that specific subject. With SQL Server 2012/2014, you are supposed to pay for each virtual core that the guest OS can see (unless you have enough physical core licenses for the entire host, and you have Microsoft SA). You would simply have to multiply the number of vCPUs times the per core license cost to get a cost figure.

  6. Glenn, would you think of the E5-4655 v3 (6 Cores, 2.9GHz-3.2GHz, 30MB Cache) as suitable for a set of hyper-v hosts for SQL Server? We would license 2 hosts with HP DL560 Gen9 (4CPUs per host). This would give us a total of 96 vCPUs to work with, but only license 48 Cores with SQL Server. E7s are really not an option for us.

    1. Hi Roland,

      That is the best model of the E5-4600 v3 family, with a relatively low core count and high clock speeds. Older versions of the E5-2600 have not scaled very well in four-socket servers, but maybe the v3 will do better. Normally I would recommend an E7-8800 v3 for a four-socket server, but they are more expensive for the hardware.

  7. Morning Glenn,
    I was wondering if I could get your opinion about a processor. I currently have a SandyBridge, E5-4650 2.7Ghz v1, 4x socket, 8 core, in a stand alone Dell 830R. I plan on upgrading to SQL 2014, along with new hardware, but I’m not sure about what new processor to go with. I was thinking about 4x E7-8893 v3 3.2GHz, 4 core or 4x E5-4655 v3, 2.9GHz, 6 cores. I want to make sure I have better cpu scalability & performance, with the higher clock speed. But temper the core counts with the SQL licensing costs.

    Thank you for your time.


    1. Hey Chris,

      I would tend to avoid the Xeon E5-4600 v3 series processors, since the Xeon E5 does not seem to scale very well in four-socket servers. The E7-8893 v3 will be quite a bit faster for single-threaded performance and will have more memory capacity. It will be more expensive for the hardware because of the high prices that Intel charges for the E7-8800 v3 family processors. Perhaps you could split your workload across two, two-socket servers that each have two Xeon E5-2643 v3 or two E5-2637 v3 processors?

      1. Thank you for your fast response!!

        Ideally, yes I’d love to split the workloads across multiple servers, but unfortunately that’s a plan for further down the road. So, for the time being I’ve been ‘tasked’ to build out an environment that can handle the mixed workload.
        With our current hardware architecture we’re core bound at peak traffic. To get us better singe threaded processing & scalability, as I mentioned previously, I’m looking at a 4x socket configuration. And since I can’t distribute my workload just yet, in the E7-8800 processor family, what wold you recommend for better performance: (E7-8890 v3, 8867 v3–most expensive), 8891 v3, 8893 v3?

  8. Chris,

    The four-core, E7-8893 v3 will have the best single-threaded performance and the lowest SQL Server license cost. The only question is whether it will have enough total capacity for your workload or not. The next jump up is to the 10-core E7-8891 v3, which will have lower single-threaded performance and much higher (more than double) the SQL Server license cost.

    Another alternative would be to look at a new two-socket server like a Dell R730, with an eight-core E5-2667 v3 or ten-core E5-2687W. If you can wait a few weeks, the E5-2600 v4 family will be available in the same servers. This assumes that 768GB of RAM is enough for you.

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