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With the launch of Intel’s new Xeon 5500 processors, it’s obvious that data centers will turn to the latest CPU to consolidate servers and embrace virtualization in the data center. But, what isn’t so obvious is what the Xeon 5500 means to the traditional desktop infrastructure.

A Xeon 5500 based server has the potential to double or triple the number of hosted virtual desktop PCs, fueling the adoption of zero-client systems, while saving energy. That could be just the kick in the pants that the hosted/virtual desktop market needs.

Intel’s ability to spark increased interest in the virtual desktop arena comes from some impressive performance and energy savings, as demonstrated by Intel during some public tests. Intel demonstrated power savings by migrating a pair of older "Woodcrest" servers, (each consuming 7 amps or 800 watts while running at full capacity) to virtualized sessions on a single Xeon 5500 server, power consumption dropped to 2.5 amps and less than 260 watts all without a loss in performance. A drop from 14 amps to 2.5 amps is should be big news in the data center. 

Combine those savings with the low power usage of zero-client PC devices and the power savings can add up very quickly across the enterprise. Power savings is only part of the story. Intel was able to show a performance gain of 160 percent over the older Xeon 5400 in the basic VMware benchmark.

While those power savings and performance improvements are sure to fuel server consolidation, solution providers will also need to look to the future, where Xeon 5500-based servers can become the cornerstone of a zero-client infrastructure.

The Intel Xeon processor 5500 series, originally code named Nehalem-EP will ranges in price from $188 to $1,600 in quantities of 1,000. The company is also introducing two processors specifically designed for the communications market, such as blades and rack-mounted systems. Those two Xeons, the L5518 and the L5508, will run at 2.13 GHz and 2.00 GHz, respectively, consuming just 60 and 38 watts, making those CPUs ideal for entry-level blade based virtualized systems.

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