Intel has announced that they will be discontinuing their “M” suffix SKUs in the Cascade Lake-SP Xeon family. At the same time, they are reducing the prices of the “L” suffix SKUs to match the old prices for the “M” suffix SKUs. This is welcome news, for several reasons. Just in case you are not familiar with Intel’s current CPU product segmentation and naming methodology, here is a quick primer.
Intel Xeon Naming
Intel uses a naming scheme for their Xeon server CPU SKUs that tells you quite a bit about the capabilities of the processor. For example, the Intel Xeon Platinum 8280 is one particular processor SKU. The fact that it is a Platinum SKU, plus each digit in the model name, along with any suffix letters gives you useful information. Figure 1 helps explain what the different parts of the model number mean.
If there are no suffix letters, that means that it is a “standard” SKU that supports up to 1TB of memory. The “M” suffix was medium DDR memory tier support, which meant up to 2TB of memory per processor. Finally, the “L” suffix was large DDR memory tier support, which was up to 4.5TB of memory per processor.
Intel Xeon Pricing
Intel was charging a significant premium for higher capacity memory support with the “M” and “L” suffix SKUs. Here is an example (before the change):
- Intel Xeon Platinum 8280 $10,009.00
- Intel Xeon Platinum 8280M $13,012.00, now being discontinued
- Intel Xeon Platinum 8280L $17,906.00, price changing to $13,012.00
Of course, these are the recommended customer prices that large customers rarely pay when they buy in volume. If you are a smaller customer looking at your server vendor’s web site, you would see the price differences reflected in the web price as you configured a system. You probably would not pay the full web price if you went through a sales representative though…
Intel will be eliminating the six “M” suffix SKUs shown below. They will also be reducing the prices of the six “L” suffix SKUs in this list.
- Intel Xeon Gold 5215M / 5215L
- Intel Xeon Gold 6238M / 6238L
- Intel Xeon Gold 6240M / 6240L
- Intel Xeon Platinum 8260M / 8260L
- Intel Xeon Platinum 8276M / 8276L
- Intel Xeon Platinum 8280M / 8280L
AMD EPYC Product Segmentation
By contrast, all AMD EPYC server processors support 4TB of memory. There is no artificial product segmentation for basic features like memory capacity or number of PCIe lanes. The only segmentation that AMD does is that they have some “P” suffix processors that only work in one-socket servers. These “P” suffix processors actually cost less than the non “P” suffix processors, but they are not artificially crippled in any other way.
Despite Intel’s spin on this, it is actually a pretty obvious reaction to the threat posed by the 7nm 2nd Generation AMD EPYC “Rome” processors. Eliminating a number of current generation SKUs and taking a significant price cut on your most expensive SKUs is not a sign of strength.
For a number of reasons, AMD is gaining market share from Intel in the server CPU product segment. Of course, Intel still controls probably 90% of the market, but that percentage is decreasing. Intel needs/wants to do something to protect that market share. Unfortunately for Intel, new generation CPUs have a long development cycle, so one immediate response is price reductions.
Because of viable competition from AMD, Intel can no longer get away with as many of their former product segmentation tactics. I predict they are going to see downward pricing pressure until they have improved products in the marketplace. Competition is great for consumers!