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IBM Launches Super-Fast P6

By David Needle (Send Email)
Posted May 22, 2007


Maybe IBM's new slogan should be "Got Speed?"

In the latest lap in the processor race, IBM lays claim to having the 'fastest processor ever built.'

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The computer giant today launched Power6, the latest and clearly the fastest in its Power line of microprocessors. At 4.7 GHz, the dual-core Power6 processor doubles the speed of the previous generation Power5 while using nearly the same amount of electricity to run and cool it, according to IBM.

IBM said the Power6 has achieved an unprecedented first place rank for four benchmarks, including TPC-C transaction processing benchmarks and SPEC results that measure Java performance.

"This is not about compiler tuning to get the best results, we have a very broad performance lead in industry standard applications like SAP," Brad McCreadie, IBM fellow and lead designer on the Power6, told internetnews.com.

Starting June 8, IBM will ship midrange System p 570 servers based on the Power6. P570 system pricing starts at $60,000. during the next year, IBM plans to ship both higher- and lower-end servers based on Power6 as well as a blade server.

As for competitive advantage, IBM said its new 2- to 16-core server offers three times the performance per core of the HP Superdome machine, based on the TPC-C benchmark. The processor speed of the Power6 chip is nearly three times faster than the latest HP Itanium processor that runs HP’s server line.

Another performance measure IBM listed is that the processor bandwidth of the Power6 chip — 300 gigabytes per second — could download the entire iTunes catalog of more than 5 million songs in about 60 seconds — a speed it claimed is 30 times faster than HP's Itanium.

"It's the fastest out there, and there's no increase in power requirements so that's two big check marks in IBM's favor," Nathan Brookwood, analyst with Insight64, told internetnews.com. "This is absolutely a play by IBM to gain more market share."

IBM also hopes to tap the interest many companies have in saving on cost, energy and space by consolidation and virtualization. The 570 is being positioned by IBM as "the world's most powerful midrange consolidation machine." In one example, IBM said it calculates 30 SunFire v890s could be consolidated into a single rack of the new IBM machine, saving more than $100,000 per year on energy costs.

But Sun officials said the v890 is an outdated model and not a fair example. "Our lower range systems are now faster than that," Tom Atwood, group manager of Sun's SPARC enterprise server group, told internetnews.com.

Atwood give credit to IBM for its benchmark achievements, but said performance records are "a leapfrog game" that no one company tends to hold for long. He also said the value of consolidation is about more than performance.

For example, Sun's own M8000 line, which was developed with Fujitsu, enables users to hot swap memory and add resources without bringing the system down first. "We can add four new processors without stopping the production environment," said Atwood.

IBM did announce a unique feature that enables customers to move live virtual machines from one physical Unix server to another while maintaining continuous availability. Coined the Power6 Live Partition Mobility function, with this technology (currently in beta, with general availability planned for later this year) customers can move active virtual partitions without temporarily suspending them.

The Power6 is also the first Unix microprocessor able to calculate decimal floating point arithmetic in hardware. Until now, IBM said calculations involving decimal numbers with floating decimal points were done using software. The built-in decimal floating point capability is of potential advantage to enterprises running complex tax, financial and ERP programs.

The Power6 chip can also operate at low voltages thanks to a new method of chip design IBM said it employed. It lets the same chip be used in low power blade environments as well as large, high-performance symmetric multiprocessing machines. The chip has configurable bandwidth, enabling customers to choose maximum performance or minimal cost.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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