Intel Xeon vs Intel i7; Is There Really a Difference?
Should additional cost be warranted for the Intel Xeon brand or are the other CPU lineups just as good? Is the Intel Xeon just an over-priced processor or is there a reason why many dedicated server providers choose this type of CPU? Why are Intel Xeon CPU’s not as popular, if at all with the consumer?
In a dedicated server environment, stability is essential. Downtime can cause not just a single user of that server to have an unresponsive website or general online service, but the many other users, either they be clients, colleagues or general online visitors are going to experience the same downtime. This will obviously have a negative impact on that service costing revenue and/or tarnishing a reputation as well as simply causing an annoyance. On a local computer, the downtime results in a rebooted computer and nothing else is thought of it. However, the dedicated server doesn’t have that luxury and the cause of the issue needs to be discovered and prevented but most of all, simply prevented in the first place. There are several ways in which the Intel Xeon Processor lineup accomplished this.
Overclocking – This is actually not even possible since Intel has tested the clock rate on each CPU vigorously to ensure that particular CPU model and clock rate can run at a reliable level. The overclocking option has with good reason been prevented to ensure maximum reliability since a dedicated server needs to be up and running as much as possible. Overclocking can increase performance for the same price paid for a similar CPU, but at added risk of crashing the server or office computer.
A good analogy is “overclocking” an airline engine to increase performance and get passengers to their destination faster. But this could obviously lead to disaster. (Most dedicated server administrators think of a crashed server as also a disaster.) “Overclocking” a fighter jet engine with a test pilot seems less disastrous as with a gaming or office computer.
ECC RAM – Since Intel Xeon’s again are performance and stability based, a very important feature that does get overlooked is the type of RAM that is being utilized within a dedicated server environment running the Intel Xeon CPU. Error Checking and Correction RAM detects the most common data corruption before it occurs which then helps prevent many system crashes while again improving on stability. The Intel i7 CPU does not have this option to run alongside this RAM.
Virtualization – Some virtualization technology such as XenServer runs best on Intel Xeons http://hcl.xensource.com/cpus/ Although there have been instances where server owners have managed to run on i7’s, it is generally not recommended if the CPU is not on the list of CPU’s guaranteed to work.
L3 cache – This feature would have the biggest increase in performance over an i7. Cache on CPU’s is like memory that is extremely fast (faster than ECC RAM) since it is so close to the actual CPU. It helps speed up processing power and in many cases is even double that of other i7 CPU’s. New Intel i7’s will eventually catch up to older Xeon processors, however the Intel Xeon cache is much higher in general depending on the CPU release dates for both processors. Newer technology is always faster and improved upon. With dedicated server environment applications and software, this L3 cache can help speed up tasks significantly.
Multi-CPU – Intel Xeon CPU’s also have the ability to use more than just one CPU in a server. This results in twice the power of a single i7 CPU while still keeping power consumption for the datacenter low if need be with low voltage CPU’s. This of course also doubles the total number of cores.
Longevity – The longevity of Xeon processors under heavy load is quite substantial in that they are built for long heavy loads for long periods of time. As long as cooling is efficient and and other hardware is in proper working order this will prolong the life of these CPU’s and prevent major server outages.
Preventing downtime and server crashes increases productivity, maintains reliability and maintains profits. Hardware issues take longer to diagnose if at first it is not determined to be a software issue. In addition determining which piece of hardware in a chain of several can be time consuming. A faster alternative would be to perform a chassis swap but this still involves downtime. On-site technicians have to be available, then schedule a time to troubleshoot while the server continues to have issues. Ruling out CPU and RAM issues helps keep a server running healthy.
For more details and source information in writing this article, please refer to https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/eurosys84-nightingale.pdf and https://promotions.newegg.com/b2b/microsoft/11-4345/images/imgs/why_choose_intel_xeon.pdf