Yesterday, Intel finally released the much anticipated Xeon E5-2600 family of processors, also known as Sandy Bridge-EP. This is a Tock release for Intel (which means a new microarchitecture) that still uses the same 32nm manufacturing process as the previous Xeon 5600 series (Westmere-EP). They will use the new Romley server platform for single and dual socket servers, replacing the existing Tylersburg platform that the Xeon 5600 series uses. While they were at it, they also released the uniprocessor Xeon E5-1600 series (which is basically the same as the Core i7 Sandy Bridge-E line released a few months ago).
A a database professional, you should be most interested in the dual socket Xeon E5-2600 family, which has models with 2, 4, 6, and 8 CPU cores (plus hyper-threading). If you are considering upgrading to SQL Server 2012 (which also went RTM yesterday), you would not want a dual-core version, since the new core based licensing model for SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition requires you to pay for a minimum of four cores per processor socket. If you need to be particularly cost sensitive about your SQL Server 2012 licensing costs, but still want the best performance possible, you should be looking at the Xeon E5-2643, which has four-cores (plus hyperthreading), a 3.3GHz base clock speed, and a 10MB L3 cache.
If you want the most scalability, regardless of the SQL Server 2012 license costs, you should be looking at the Xeon E5-2690, which has eight cores (plus hyperthreading), a 2.9GHz base clock speed (with turbo boost to 3.8GHz), and a 20MB L3 cache. If your server platform offers it, you also might consider the Xeon E5-2687W, which has a 150W TDP and a base clock speed of 3.1GHz, but is otherwise identical to the E5-2690.
As usual, Anandtech has a good, early review, complete with some SQL Server 2008 R2 benchmark results. They also include SQL Server 2008 R2 results comparing performance under the Windows Balanced and High Performance Power Plans. Tom’s Hardware has another review, that is more focused on high-end workstation performance, since you can buy two socket workstations with Sandy Bridge-EP processors.
Of course in order to use this new processor family, you are going to need a new server platform that supports it, so the Tier 1 server vendors have all released new server models for the Sandy Bridge-EP. For example, Dell has the 12th generation PowerEdge R720 and R720xd models, while HP has the DL380p Gen 8 line. I am pretty excited by the specifications available in these new models. For example, the Dell PowerEdge R720xd has 24 memory slots (that can support 32GB DIMMs if you have deep enough pockets), 26 2.5 inch internal drive bays, and six PCI-E 3.0 slots (two x16, and four x8). You can also get 10Gb Ethernet support with a daughtercard. Honestly, if you can’t build a very fast two socket SQL Server database server with one of these, you are not really trying!