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IBM Power6: 'fastest microprocessor ever'

IBM claims its new 4.7GHz dual-core Power6 microprocessor is the fastest ever built, offering twice the performance of its predecessor while consuming hardly any more power.

The company has also launched a new two to 16-core server - the System p 570 - based on the chip, claiming its offers three times the transaction processing performance of the HP Superdome and with sufficient processor bandwidth to "download the entire iTunes catalog in about 60 seconds - 30 times faster than HP's Itanium."

The p 570 is currently the fastest system available as measured by the SPECint2006, SPECfp2006, SPECjbb2005 and TPC-C benchmarks, which measure integer calculations, floating point calculations, Java performance for business applications, and transaction processing respectively.

IBM officials describe the p 570 as "the world's most powerful midrange consolidation machine" capable of consolidating the workload of 30 SunFire v890 servers into a single rack, saving more than $US100,000 per year in energy costs alone (based on the published maximum power draw for the systems).

Features of the new chip include decimal floating point arithmetic in hardware, 8M of on-chip cache memory, and reduced power consumption (including low voltage operation for parts of the chip, and setting the processor clocks to zero when there is no real work to be done).

The 4.7GHz Power6 chip will subsequently be used across the System p and System i families.

Also announced - but only as a beta release - was software allowing virtual machines to be moved from one Power6 server to another without suspending or rebooting the VMs. IBM officials claim competing virtualisation products  "require a disruptive reboot of the Unix system and software stack". Power6 Live Partition Mobility is scheduled for general release later this year.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.