Intel’s Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPU Production Woes Moves Launch To Early 2023

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Intel's Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPUs have witnessed a huge delay and there are a number of reasons as to why that has happened. Our good fellow, Igor Wallosek from Igor's Lab, has a detailed outline of what went wrong and when the chips will be actually available.

Intel Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPUs Bugs, Production Woes, Vulnerabilities Among Countless Reasons For 2023 Delay

The Intel Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPU lineup for servers was meant to launch and compete with AMD's EPYC Milan CPUs. Since their announcement, AMD has launched Milan, Milan-X, and will launch Genoa in the coming months. While we were expecting that Sapphire Rapids could ship around the same time as Genoa, that doesn't seem to be the case as the launch is being pushed back to early 2023.

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With a total of 12 (!) steppings, they haven’t exactly covered themselves with glory either, and I can’t remember any project so far that needed so many steppings before you could even use it to some extent. This started with A0 and A1, then proceeded via B0, C0, C1, C2, D0, E0, E2, E3 and E4 until currently stepping E5! The market launch was planned about 1.5 years ago and the plan was recently updated again.

Until now, Intel’s customers and partners assumed that the chips would be available in the second half of 2022, but internal information is now becoming a bit more concrete. Intel has now announced the “launch window” for Sapphire Rapids (SPR) for calendar week 6 to 9 (Feb. 6, 2023 to March 3, 2023), while the first shipment to selected recipients is still scheduled for 2022 in two waves. Calendar week 42 for the smallest models (2S) and calendar week 45 for the larger models (4 and 8S) are being speculated.

via Igor's Lab

According to Igor, at the moment, Intel has a total of 12 Steppings for its Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPUs. There are A0, A1, B0, C0, C1, C2, D0, E0, E2, E3, E4, and the most recent E5 stepping. The main reason why there are so many steppings is that Sapphire Rapids production hasn't been groundbreaking and on the way, Intel encountered various problems.

One of these problems is a security vulnerability that was encountered in the previous chip iteration. While Intel has a new stepping on the way, some of Intel's customers were reluctant to wait and ordered the affected chips but they also aren't going to utilize the affected portion of the CPU so they will remain unaffected by the vulnerability. There's also talk about Intel shipping out low-end SKUs earlier whereas the high-volume supply is expected to ship later.

As per Igor's Lab, according to internal documents, the latest Intel Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPU launch is pitted between weeks 6 to 9 of 2023. That's between February 6th, 2023 till March 3rd, 2023.

Yeah. And giving a bit more detail on Sapphire, we're already ramping a number of SKUs of Sapphire Rapids already. They began ramping last quarter. So we have a number of those ramping.

The particular issue that we highlighted wasn't affecting those SKUs, so those continue to ramp. So we did another tape out, which I'll say, for the larger volume SKUs, and those will be volume shipping in the second half of the year. So you'll see us ramping those and launching those. So we're fully on track for that, and we feel like we're over all of the issues that we've had in bringing that product to marketplace.

So we feel very comfortable with that. We're then working very closely -- emerald goes into the Sapphire platform. So we're working very closely with our customers on the timing there. The product is looking very healthy.

So we're nicely on track. So that will be a '23 product. And then Granite and Sierra Forest is the '24 product. And just to remind everybody, this is a major new platform.

Intel CEO, Pat Gelsinger (Q2 2022 Earnings Call)

We have also seen some early performance numbers for Sapphire Rapids Xeon CPUs and things don't look great for Intel as they missed out big to compete against Milan. While the chiplet CPU design allows for higher ASPs, the impending delay means that there are obviously going to be some major consequences and adverse ones for the pushback. Intel has also highlighted their next-generation Emerald Rapids CPUs which they are expecting to launch by 2023 and Granite Rapids chips by 2024 though, given the current delay, we can't put too much trust in the figures.

Intel Xeon SP Families (Preliminary):

Family BrandingSkylake-SPCascade Lake-SP/APCooper Lake-SPIce Lake-SPSapphire RapidsEmerald RapidsGranite RapidsDiamond Rapids
Process Node14nm+14nm++14nm++10nm+Intel 7Intel 7Intel 3Intel 3?
Platform NameIntel PurleyIntel PurleyIntel Cedar IslandIntel WhitleyIntel Eagle StreamIntel Eagle StreamIntel Mountain Stream
Intel Birch Stream
Intel Mountain Stream
Intel Birch Stream
Core ArchitectureSkylakeCascade LakeCascade LakeSunny CoveGolden CoveRaptor CoveRedwood Cove?Lion Cove?
IPC Improvement (Vs Prev Gen)10%0%0%20%19%8%?35%?39%?
MCP (Multi-Chip Package) SKUsNoYesNoNoYesYesTBD (Possibly Yes)TBD (Possibly Yes)
SocketLGA 3647LGA 3647LGA 4189LGA 4189LGA 4677LGA 4677TBDTBD
Max Core CountUp To 28Up To 28Up To 28Up To 40Up To 56Up To 64?Up To 120?Up To 144?
Max Thread CountUp To 56Up To 56Up To 56Up To 80Up To 112Up To 128?Up To 240?Up To 288?
Max L3 Cache38.5 MB L338.5 MB L338.5 MB L360 MB L3105 MB L3120 MB L3?240 MB L3?288 MB L3?
Vector EnginesAVX-512/FMA2AVX-512/FMA2AVX-512/FMA2AVX-512/FMA2AVX-512/FMA2AVX-512/FMA2AVX-1024/FMA3?AVX-1024/FMA3?
Memory SupportDDR4-2666 6-ChannelDDR4-2933 6-ChannelUp To 6-Channel DDR4-3200Up To 8-Channel DDR4-3200Up To 8-Channel DDR5-4800Up To 8-Channel DDR5-5600?Up To 12-Channel DDR5-6400?Up To 12-Channel DDR6-7200?
PCIe Gen SupportPCIe 3.0 (48 Lanes)PCIe 3.0 (48 Lanes)PCIe 3.0 (48 Lanes)PCIe 4.0 (64 Lanes)PCIe 5.0 (80 lanes)PCIe 5.0 (80 Lanes)PCIe 6.0 (128 Lanes)?PCIe 6.0 (128 Lanes)?
TDP Range (PL1)140W-205W165W-205W150W-250W105-270WUp To 350WUp To 375W?Up To 400W?Up To 425W?
3D Xpoint Optane DIMMN/AApache PassBarlow PassBarlow PassCrow PassCrow Pass?Donahue Pass?Donahue Pass?
CompetitionAMD EPYC Naples 14nmAMD EPYC Rome 7nmAMD EPYC Rome 7nmAMD EPYC Milan 7nm+AMD EPYC Genoa ~5nmAMD EPYC BergamoAMD EPYC TurinAMD EPYC Venice
Launch201720182020202120222023?2024?2025?
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