Intel's Broadwell-EP Server Chip Isn't Cancelled After All

A little while ago, Italian IT website Bits 'n Chips reported that Intel had taken its upcoming Broadwell-EP processors off of its product road maps. The idea, then, was that Intel would skip over its Broadwell family of products for servers and go straight to its next generation server platform codenamed Purley.

However, thanks to new information out of the recent Intel Developer Forum event, it's clear that Broadwell-EP is not cancelled and is, in fact, set to be launched fairly soon.

What is it, and when will it arrive?These chips, according to a recent leak, should offer more processor cores than current Haswell-EP chips do. Although a list of all of the different Broadwell-EP chip configurations has yet to leak out, it is known that the highest-end Broadwell-EP chip will pack 22 CPU cores, a 22% increase from the highest-end Haswell-EP chips.

The chips will also include official support for DDR4-2400 memory, leading to improved memory bandwidth over Haswell-EP, which officially supports up to DDR4-2133.

In a nutshell, Broadwell-EP will essentially be an enhanced version of the current Haswell-EP parts with slightly faster cores (Broadwell versus Haswell), more of them, and support for faster memory to feed those cores.

According to German website Computer Base, an Intel representatigve suggested that Broadwell-EP is targeted for release at the end of the current year. Earlier Intel product road maps floating around on the Web indicate that Intel plans to transition its product line from Haswell-EP to Broadwell-EP by the first quarter of 2016.

Don't expect a major improvement until Purley, thoughBroadwell-EP looks like a solid refresh that will keep Intel's Grantley platform relevant throughout 2016. That said, I don't expect the real excitement to come until the company launches its next generation Purley platform in 2017.

The Purley platform, coupled with the Skylake-EP processor family, looks as though it will offer substantial performance and feature benefits over the current Grantley platform paired with either Haswell-EP or Broadwell-EP processors.

These benefits include, but are not limited to: increased memory bandwidth, enhanced CPU cores, more CPU cores, additional PCI Express lanes, a totally revamped I/O chip, and support for 3D XPoint-based memory modules.

What might this mean for Intel's data-center group results in 2016?To get a sense of what Intel's data center growth rate might look like in 2016, I thought it would be useful to look at the kinds of year-over-year growth rates Intel saw following the launch of Sandy Bridge-EP (new platform) and Ivy Bridge-EP (refresh of Sandy Bridge-EP on the same platform).

Here are the year-over-year growth rates that Intel's data center group saw in each quarter following the launch of Sandy Bridge-EP in Q1 2012 but before Ivy Bridge-EP (Sandy Bridge-EP refresh) arrived:

Source: Intel financial results.

Here's how Intel's data center group did in the quarters starting with the launch of Ivy Bridge-EP in the third quarter of 2013 through the second quarter of 2014 (the last quarter before the launch of Haswell-EP):

Source: Intel financial results. *Intel's follow-on platform known as Grantley did not formally launch until Q3'14, but Intel management indicated on its Q2'14 earnings call that it had begun shipments to certain "cloud and HPC customers" in the second quarter, impacting the usefulness of this data point.

Although the data here is fairly limited, and there are other non-product related factors that certainly impact Intel's data center growth rates, I think the solid growth rates seen following the launch of Ivy Bridge-EP should give investors a reasonable amount of confidence that Intel's data center growth rate won't crash as a result of customers potentially waiting for Intel's next generation Purley platform.

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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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