IBM claims world’s fastest processor with 4.7 GHz POWER6

Apple StoreIBM today simultaneously launched the fastest microprocessor ever built and an ultra-powerful new computer server that leverages the chip’s many breakthroughs in energy conservation and virtualization technology. The new server is the first ever to hold all four major benchmark speed records for business and technical performance.

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. This means customers can use the new processor to either increase their performance by 100 percent or cut their power consumption virtually in half.

IBM’s new 2- to 16-core server also offers three times the performance per core of the HP Superdome machine, based on the key 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. Even more impressive, the processor bandwidth of the POWER6 chip – 300 gigabytes per second — could download the entire iTunes catalog in about 60 seconds – 30 times faster than HP’s Itanium.

But the new server offers more than just raw performance – it is the world’s most powerful midrange consolidation machine, containing special hardware and software that allows it to create many “virtual” servers on a single box.

IBM calculates that 30 SunFire v890s can be consolidated into a single rack of the new IBM machine, saving more than $100,000 per year on energy costs. According to IDC, IBM has gained 10.4 points of UNIX revenue share in the past five years — versus HP’s loss of 5.3 points and Sun’s loss of 1.4 points. IBM will use the new machine to target customers with less-efficient HP, Sun and Dell servers.

Demonstrating its remarkable versatility, the new IBM System p 570, running the POWER6 processor, claims the No.1 spots in the four most widely used performance benchmarks for Unix servers – SPECint2006 (measuring integer-calculating throughput common in business applications), SPECfp2006 (measuring floating point-calculating throughput required for scientific applications), SPECjbb2005 (measuring Java performance in business operations per second) and TPC-C (measuring transaction processing capability). This is the first time that a single system has owned all four categories. The new System p 570 now holds 25 benchmark records across a broad portfolio of business and technical applications.

The performance leadership is largely attributed the system’s balanced design. Unlike competing servers, IBM succeeded in scaling the new server’s processor performance and system design (cache sizes and bandwidth) in a balanced way. The POWER6 chip has a total cache size of 8MB per chip – four times the POWER5 chip – to keep pace with the awesome processor bandwidth. By contrast, many other servers concentrate mainly on processor performance, at the expense of the server’s ability to feed data to the chip at a rate that takes advantage of the processor’s speed.

“Like the victory of IBM’s Deep Blue chess-playing supercomputer 10 years ago this month, the debut of POWER6 processor-based systems proves that relentless innovation brings ‘impossible’ goals within reach,” said Bill Zeitler, senior vice president, IBM Systems and Technology Group, in the press release. “The POWER6 processor forges blazing performance and energy conservation technologies into a single piece of silicon, driving unprecedented business value for our customers.”

The POWER6 chip in the new IBM System p 570 server owns a number of industry “firsts.” It is the first UNIX microprocessor able to calculate decimal floating point arithmetic in hardware. Until now, calculations involving decimal numbers with floating decimal points were done using software. The built-in decimal floating point capability gives tremendous advantage to enterprises running complex tax, financial and ERP programs.

The POWER6 processor is built using IBM’s state-of-the-art 65 nanometer process technology. Coming at a time when some experts have predicted an end to Moore’s Law, which holds that processor speed doubles every 18 months, the IBM breakthrough is driven by a host of technical achievements scored during the five-year research and development effort to develop the POWER6 chip. These include:

• A dramatic improvement in the way instructions are executed inside the chip. IBM scientists increased chip performance by keeping static the number of pipeline stages – the chunks of operations that must be completed in a single cycle of clock time — but making each stage faster, removing unnecessary work and doing more in parallel. As a result, execution time is cut in half or energy consumption is reduced.

• Separating circuits that can’t support low voltage operation onto their own power supply “rails,” allowing IBM to dramatically reduce power for the rest of the chip.

• Voltage/frequency “slewing,” enabling the chip to lower electricity consumption by up to 50 percent, with minimal performance impact.

• A new method of chip design that enables POWER6 to operate at low voltages, allowing the same chip to 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.

The POWER6 chip includes additional techniques to conserve power and reduce heat generated by POWER6 processor-based servers. Processor clocks can be dynamically turned off when there is no useful work to be done and turned back on when there are instructions to be executed.

Power saving is also realized when the memory is not fully utilized, as power to parts of the memory not being utilized is dynamically turned off and then turned back on when needed. In cases where an over-temperature condition is detected, the POWER6 chip can reduce the rate of instruction execution to remain within an acceptable, user-defined temperature envelope.



  1. @ gzero: IBM made the same mistake that motorola did. they thought that Apple could not live without their chips because they couldn’t change their OS, What a mistake to make!

    Once however Apple (SJ) proved that they were not going to be taken prisoner by any company, they appear to have pulled the proverbial finger from where the sun don’t shine.

    Apple can easily take advantage of both chips because of their Xserves & macs, the real question is….

    Where does this developement leave AMD?

  2. Geez crab. Chill out! The ultimate boss is the client and it looks like you are in dire need of some of them. That surely causes frustration and it is understandable, but you do not have to take it out on anybody else.

    Peace to all…

  3. If Apple had an intel OSX evert since its inception, it is reasonable to assume thatm the PPC version is in the labs just waiting for the need/opportunity.
    Wasn’t even NEXT a cross processer capable OS design?

  4. @ allen. NEXT and LEOPARD are software written with/on/by UNIX bsd.

    The bit of the software that access the processor is what is different.

    So yes, if you include the bit that can access the powerpc chip, it will be different from the one that can access the intel chip, those bits are not the OS, but are OS specific.

  5. Um, folks. RTFA.

    It’s not the PowerPC that IBM has built at 4.7GHz, it’s the POWER 6. It’s a server chip. Completely different piece of hardware, with a completely different market. The ‘A’ and ‘M’ of the AIM alliance have nothing to do with POWER.

    Apple’s never done anything with POWER.

    POWER 5 was kicking, too; but Apple couldn’t use it because it was fundamentally different than the PowerPC.

  6. Wasn’t the G5 based on the Power4 processor from IBM. They had to make it compatible with OS X to get it to work. Part of that was adding a Velocity engine part to the chip.

    IBM never released a PPC processor based on the G5.

    The G6 is a brand new product. It could be years, if ever, before IBM make a chip compatible with the Mac OS.

    You may be able to run Darwin on it, but all of the GUI goodness would probably fail.

  7. “If Apple had an intel OSX evert since its inception, it is reasonable to assume thatm the PPC version is in the labs just waiting for the need/opportunity.”

    The PPC version is alive and well — it’s the part of “Universal Binary” that lets Tiger (and soon Leopard) and other apps run on G4s and G5s as well as Intel Macs.

    But since the Power6 is IBMs “high end” server line, and since Apple has burned a few bridges between itself and IBM, I seriously doubt you’ll see a Power6 based Mac of any kind any time soon.

  8. IIRC PowerPC chips are based on, but are not themselves POWER chips. The POWER series have always been wicked fast, but for one reason or another Apple never chose to base any servers on them, otherwise we’d have had XServes running POWER4 and POWER5. The same reasons will probably prevent building any POWER6 XServes as well. But, boy wouldn’t it be nice…

  9. Everyone. The POWER architecture was never used in a Macintosh. The G5 was nowhere near a POWER 5. Whereas a POWER 6 will never be used in a computer that does not have liquid nitrogen keeping it cool. This news has nothing to do with Apple and is meant purely for IBM’s big iron customers to show them that they are still relevant because IBM is having serious problems. Despite my initial thoughts, Apple teaming up with Intel was probably one of the best business decisions Apple has ever made.

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