Sinharoy sees POWER5 competition in two separate spaces: “In the commercial market, we expect our competition to be Sun and HP.” He believes HP’s Unix systems will pose stiffer competition for Big Blue than Sun’s beleaguered SPARC servers. He also believes POWER5 will triumph here in performance and functionality.
Meanwhile, “In the HPC market, our competition is primarily with Itanium chips and Opteron chips,” Sinharoy said. POWER5 runs (and will continue to run) at higher frequencies than Itanium-2, he added.
And how does POWER stack up to its competition? Broderick, for one, doubts Itanium-2’s competitiveness. “I don’t see a big future for Itanium. I can’t find many people adopting it,” he says, pointing out HP’s Opteron adoption as another harbinger for the struggling platform.
Sinharoy ceded that the Opteron will beat POWER5 for frequency, but he cites POWER5’s improved caching and data handling as boosters. “Nothing was slapped on” to POWER, Sinharoy said, whereas Opteron was introduced as a 32-bit chip, and “later on 64-bit was added.”
The following chart offers an at-a-glance comparison of Opteron, Power, and Itanium-2.
Total Cache Size
No. of Bits
|Opteron||2.4 GHz||L1: 128 KB
L2: 1 MB
|Itanium-2 (Madison) with MX-2||1.50 GHz||L1: 32 KB
L2: 256 KB
L3: 6 MB
|POWER5||1.65 GHz||L1: 64 KB
L2: 1.9 MB
L3: 36 MB
As IBM looks to make POWER a pervasive commodity, like, well, power, it will be pushed out in various platforms. “You’re going to see it OEMed to EMC, you’ll see it embedded in IBM [storage], all sorts of storage gear. You’ll see it in Playstations, Gameboys, it will become pervasive across the industry within, I would guess, 12 months,” Broderick said. “You will probably even see it embedded in a mainframe at some point,” he added.
POWER5 will also have a Macintosh-based derivative down the road. “We just haven’t announced what this will look like,” Sinharoy said, citing IBM’s “strong relationship with Apple.”
“Historically, this is the sixth generation of POWER architecture,” DeGiglio said. Like a stalwart driver, “IBM has laid this road map out, stuck to the road map, and we expect that it will stick to the road map in the future.”
Sinharoy cites POWER6 (slated for release in 2006 or 2007), and already funded projects through 2012 as evidence of IBM’s POWER resolve. Today, POWER is an exciting, innovative player in the 64-bit market. We can only assume it will continue to be one for the far future. As enterprises ponder processing options on their short list of server choices over the next several years, ignoring POWER is a perilous proposition.