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IBM Launches Fastest Processor Ever

Along with the launch of the new Power6 chips, IBM is rolling out a server, called the IBM System p 570, which Big Blue claims can single-handedly do the workload of 30 SunFire v890 servers. This kind of "big iron" is IBM's heritage, said Martin Reynolds, an analyst with industry research firm Gartner.

IBM broke another chip record Monday and played to its strength in high-performance servers, launching the dual-core Power6 processor. Running at 4.7 GHz, the Power6 is twice as fast as the previous generation of Power5 processors, and is being called the fastest microprocessor ever made.

The Armonk, New York-based company said that the 65-nm Power6 chip uses about the same amount of electricity as its predecessor, meaning that data centers can cut their power use for the same performance, or double the performance at the same power.

The Power6 has a processor bandwidth of 300 GB/sec, Big Blue said, noting that this rate could allow the entire iTunes catalog to be downloaded in 60 seconds. According to IBM, that speed is some 30 times faster than the iTunes-downloading capability of the Intel Itanium processor, which peaks at 1.66 GHz.

IBM's Big Iron Heritage
This kind of "big iron" is IBM's heritage, said Martin Reynolds, an analyst with industry research firm Gartner. The Power6 strengthens IBM's strong position for very high-performance microprocessors for data centers, he said, where Big Blue remains in first place ahead of Sun and Hewlett-Packard.

At the same time that the Power6 was launched, IBM introduced a new 2- to 16-core server, called the IBM System p 570. That server, using the new Power6 chip, placed first in four common Unix benchmarks that measure integer calculations common in business, floating-point calculations used in scientific research, Java performance, and transaction processing.

"This is the first time that a single system has owned all four categories," IBM said.

Green Technology
Electrical power and cooling requirements for data centers are increasingly important issues. The new chip is being touted in some quarters as "green" technology because of its ability to offer faster speeds without drawing more electricity than the earlier Power chips.

Additionally, when the full capabilities of the Power6 are not being used, the chip can be dynamically scaled down and then restored when needed. The chip design also allows it to operate at low voltages, so it can be used in low-power blade servers as well as other environments.

Reynolds expressed reservation about how much power will actually be saved, although he did note that one area of conservation might be that tasks formerly requiring many servers could now be consolidated. IBM claims that the workload of 30 SunFire v890 servers can now be accommodated by one System p 570.

The processing capability of the new chip is due to several advances, IBM said, including a balanced scaling of cache sizes. "The Power6 chip has a total cache size of 8 MB per chip -- four times the Power5 chip," the company said. This allows data to be fed "to the chip at a rate that takes advantage of the processor's speed."

Other firsts that IBM cited include the Power6 being the first Unix microprocessor that uses hardware calculation for decimal floating-point arithmetic. Previously executed in software, this kind of calculation impacts the processing of complex tax or other financial programs.

By Barry Levine (NewsFector Network)
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