Looking for a super-powerful server? I've reviewed a couple (the HP ProLiant DL580 Gen8 and the NEC Express5800/A2000 CX) in our labs this month. Both servers mark a revolutionary leap in performance and reliability over the previous generation of hardware—and both are built around the new Intel Xeon E7 v2 Ivy Bridge-EX processor. This processor is the latest in a new generation of processors with multiple cores and high memory capacity. Get ready to see more of the Xeon E7 in all the latest and greatest enterprise servers. You can learn more about the processor in the "Intel Xeon Processor E7 v2 Family Technical Overview," but for now, here's my list of this processor family's 10 best features.

1. Supported Sockets

The new Xeon E7 v2 chips are available in several multisocket configurations. Xeon E7-2800 v2 processors go into two-socket systems. Xeon E7-4800 v2 processors go into four-socket machines. And Xeon E7-8800 v2 processors are designed for servers with eight sockets. Xeon E7 v2 processors use the Intel LGA2011 Socket R1.

2. Core Count

The 20 versions of the Intel Xeon E7 v2 processor provide numerous cores; choose from 6, 8, 10, 12, or 15. All the Xeon E7 v2 processors support Hyper-Threading with two threads per core. The cores are arranged on the chip in three columns of five cores each.

3. Clock Speeds and Cache

Clock speeds for the eight-socket Xeon E7-8800 v2 series range from a high of 3.4GHz to a low of 2.3GHz. The L3 cache tops out at 37.5MB on the high end and 24MB on the low end. For the four-socket Xeon E7-4800 v2 series, the clock speed and cache vary from 2.80GHz and 37.5MB, respectively, to 1.9GHz and 12MB. Speed and cache for the two-socket Xeon E7-2800 v2 series range from 2.80GHz and 37.5MB to 2.30GHz and 24MB.

4. Addressable Memory

One of the most significant changes in these new processors is a huge increase in addressable memory. Servers with Xeon E7 v2 processors can address as much as 4TB of RAM—twice the amount supported by the previous generation. The new processors support 64GB DIMMs, with 24 DIMMs per socket. The Xeon E7 v1 used 32GB DIMMs and had a maximum of 16 DIMMs per socket.

5. Manufacturing Process

A smaller manufacturing process is one of the reasons that the Xeon E7 v2 processors can support so many cores. Xeon E7 v1 CPUs were built using a 32-nanometer manufacturing process. The Xeon E7 v2 uses a 22-nanometer manufacturing process, upping the maximum number of cores by 50 percent.

6. Transistors

Thanks to the new 22-nanometer manufacturing process, the top Xeon E7 v2 processor line has a mind-blowing 4.3 billion transistors. That's right: 4.3 billion.

7. Watts

Power consumption has becoming an increasing concern for IT. Most organizations are striving for greener IT operations. The 3.4GHz Xeon E7-8893 v2 has a maximum thermal design power (TDP) of 155 watts. The more economical 2.3GHz Xeon E7-2870 v2 uses a more modest 105 watts.

8. Connections

The Xeon E7 v2 processors have two memory controllers and three Intel QuickPath Interconnects (QPIs) running at 8 gigatransfers per second (GT/s). Intel QPIs serve to connect processors to one another as well as to the I/O controller. In addition, the Xeon E7 v2 supports PCI Express 3.0 with a maximum of 32 lanes.

9. Advanced Processor Features

Xeon E7 v2 processors support all the advanced features that you have come to expect from Intel: Turbo Boost Technology, Hyper-Threading, Virtualization Technology, Extended Page Tables, Enhanced SpeedStep, and Thermal Monitoring.

10. Advanced Reliability, Availability, and Serviceability (RAS) Features

The Xeon E7 v2 also incorporates Intel Run Sure Technology, which consists of Resilient System Technology and Resilient Memory Technologies. Resilient System Technology integrates processor, hardware, firmware, and software layers to diagnose fatal errors, contain any faults, and continue running. Resilient Memory Technologies help to ensure data integrity within the memory subsystem. If memory errors are detected, then the content is moved to an unused DRAM device.