Well, I apparently did not learn my lesson last year, when I did a month long series called “A DMV a Day”, where I wrote a blog post every day during the month of April, since I am going to do it again this year, focusing on hardware as it relates to SQL Server.
We will start this series by talking about the Intel Xeon X56oo series processor, which is also known as the Westmere-EP.
The Intel Xeon 5600 series (“Westmere-EP”) is a four or six-core processor used in two socket servers starting in April 2010. It is based on the Nehalem microarchitecture (with a process shrink to 32nm), and it has both hyper-threading technology and turbo boost capability. It is built on 32nm process technology, and has clock speeds ranging from 1.87GHz to 3.46GHz with an L3 cache size of 12MB. QPI bandwidth ranges from 5.86GT/s to 6.4GT/s. It uses Socket LGA 1366, and uses the Intel 5500 or 5520 chipset. It has an improved memory controller and a larger L3 cache compared to the Xeon 5500 series. This is currently Intel’s highest performance processor for single-threaded workloads, which means that it is especially suited for OLTP performance. It is definitely the best Intel two-socket processor for SQL Server workloads in the 2010 to late-2011 timeframe, until the “Sandy Bridge-EP”
Intel recently released the Xeon X5690 processor, which is the new top of the line processor in this family. It has a base clock speed of 3.46GHz, with a max turbo frequency of 3.73GHz. This processor has six physical cores, plus hyper-threading, so that you get 12 logical cores (which are visible to the operating system) for each physical processor. In my opinion, (which is backed up by my analysis of published TPC-E benchmark scores) the top-end Westmere-EP processor is the current absolute best choice for OLTP workloads. Figure 1 below shows the Intel processor family tree, with the Westmere being an improved version of the Nehalem, with a die shrink to 32nm. It is a Tick release for Intel, while Sandy Bridge is a Tock release.
Figure 1: Intel Processor Family Tree, from Wikipedia