Nick Winkworth

Yet another new chip from Intel? Why you should care...

Blog Post created by Nick Winkworth Employee on Sep 11, 2014

This week Intel launched the latest iteration of its Xeon E5 processor family (previously codenamed “Haswell”): the Xeon E5 v3. Intel Xeon E5 processors are used in Hitachi Compute Blade servers which are the foundation of our Unified Compute Platform (UCP) converged solutions for virtualization as well as for many mission critical applications. If you are aware of Hitachi's close relationship with Intel it will come as no surprise that a new version of our CB520H blade for the CB500 Compute Blade Server, based on the new E5 v3 chip, will be shipping soon.


The problem is that Intel has such a frequent cadence of processor releases that it's easy to get jaded. Naturally its faster, uses less power, has more of everything (cores, cache, and so on). Big yawn, right?


Indeed anyone who attended The Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco this week had to work hard find any discussion of the new announcement, so focused was the conference on all things mobile and wearable.


What Really Matters

Although the data center may not be in the spotlight right now, these new mobile devices and the explosion in connected “things” will actually make the data center even more critically important. All those billions (yes, billions with a "B") of devices that we expect to see - from wearables to widgets, and even beer kegs - will generate Zettabytes of data - and that all has to be processed and stored. That heralds a massive change for IT. As a result, new businesses and services will be enabled and new and as yet unimagined applications will be required.


These are the businesses that will define the future of IT.


A New Approach

We won't meet these future requirements by continuing a business-as-usual approach, and already data centers are starting to focus on the next advances in virtualization technologies that will take them beyond the limits of today's Virtual Machine Managers (VMMs) and hypervisors. This is generating interest in reviving old technologies such as containers (as exemplified by Docker), and in the concept of VMMs running in VMMs - often referred to as "nested virtualization".


Nested virtualization has many advantages - and potential uses - but until now the architectural limitations of the processor has imposed a heavy performance penalty which prevented all but a few customers from implementing it (although Hitachi has customers doing this today!).


Enabling the Future

Hitachi has been a leader in virtualization technology since the days of the mainframe, and for many years has been the only vendor to offer mainframe-like Logical Partitioning (LPAR) on general purpose x86 blade servers. Because of this, Hitachi engineers were among the first to encounter the challenges around nested virtualization, and have been working closely with Intel on a solution. With Xeon E5 v3 that solution has finally become reality with the introduction of a new feature called “VMCS Shadowing”. If you'd like to understand how it works I recommend you read Hu Yoshida’s guest blog on Intel’s website .


The bottom line is that with the introduction of Intel Xeon E5 v3 the use of nested virtualization – and specifically VMM on LPAR – has become a practical reality for everyone. And that has big implications for many industries and service providers.


This is something will help data centers everywhere tackle the coming challenges of the data deluge; truly “Business Defined IT”!