Intel jumps into cloud gaming with first Haswell server chip

Intel's Xeon E3-1200v3 chips will serve graphics over the cloud with Haswell's improved graphics processor

Intel is jumping into cloud gaming with the new Xeon E3-1200v3 chips, which are the company's first server processors based on the Haswell microarchitecture.

The server chips are targeted at microservers that will be able to serve graphics and media over the cloud to client devices, said Radoslaw Walczyk, an Intel spokesman.

The 13 new v3 chips draw between 13 watts and 84 watts of power, with some higher-end models including an integrated graphics processor. The low-end 13-watt E3-1220Lv3 is the most power-efficient Xeon processor to date, but it does not include a graphics processor.

The target market for E3-1200v3 sector includes the emerging category of cloud gaming, which is also being viewed by Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia through their CPUs and graphics processor offerings. Nvidia has released the VCA (Visual Computing Alliance) packed with graphics cards to serve up games, while Advanced Micro Devices offers Opteron server chips with integrated graphics processors.

This is the third iteration of Intel's E3 microserver chips in three years, but the graphics improvements in Haswell make it possible for the company to serve quality graphics over the cloud. The E3 1200v3 chips offers a 38 percent improvement in graphics compared to the v2 chips, which are based on Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, according to Intel's benchmarks. The v3 chip is also more power efficient, with the new 25-watt v3 CPU delivering a 52 percent improved performance-per-watt than a 45-watt Xeon E3 chip from the previous generation.

The E3 chip can also be used for mobile video, video-conferencing and to serve ads, according to Intel. Intel offers a SDK (software development kit) to write programs that take advantage of on-chip media acceleration features such as QuickSync, which speeds up coding and decoding of video.

Servers with the new E3-1200v3 chips are expected to be announced this month. Other target markets for the chip include cloud deployments and desktop virtualization.

The 13-watt dual-core chip runs at 1.1GHz to 1.3GHz and will be priced at US$193 for 1,000 units. The other 12 E3 chips are quad-core chips and have clock speeds of 1.8GHz to 3.7GHz. The chips are priced at $193 to $774 depending on the features, with some including graphics processors.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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