A Breakdown of Intel’s Processor Numbering

There was a time when all you had to know about a processor was the clock speed.  Then, you knew your 486 was faster than your friend’s down the street.  Those days are long gone, and the complexity of processor power and naming systems for them makes deciphering the actual speed and power a bit like cracking a secret ancient code to open a treasure chest.

For servers, Intel recommends its Xeon processors.  Like the Core i3, i5, and i7 processors for desktops and laptops, the Xeon server processors are divided into three product lines: Intel Xeon Processor E3, E5, and E7.  Each processor in the product line then has a number scheme that follows the E#.

The entire processor name can be divided into seven parts:

Brand – In this case, the server brand is “Intel Xeon processor”
Product line – This will be either E3 (single processor systems), E5, or E7 (multi-processor systems).
Wayness, maximum CPUs in a node – The number of sockets the system can support
Socket type – The higher the number is, the more the socket type can handle
Processor SKU – Processor part number
Power usage – For example, “L” refers to “low power usage”.
Version – As new versions come out for the processors, this field will have v2, v3, etc.

A full processor name might look like this: “Intel Xeon Processor E3 – 1235 L v2”.  Knowing that, however, tells you very little about what your server’s processor can actually do, and that is unfortunate, especially if you are trying to get the most for your money in a new server.  To really know how powerful a processor is, you will need to look at benchmark comparisons and more in-depth analyses of the competing hardware.