IBM Unleashes World's Fastest Chip in Powerful New Computer

Processor doubles speed without adding to energy 'footprint,' enabling customers to reduce electricity consumption by almost half; Enough bandwidth to download entire iTunes catalog in 60 seconds

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 21 May 2007: IBM (NYSE: IBM) 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 (1).

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 (2). The processor speed of the POWER6 chip is nearly three times faster than the latest Itanium processor that runs H-P’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 the Itanium processor in H-P's servers.

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 (3). 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 (4). IBM will use the new machine to target customers with less-efficient HP, Sun and Dell servers.

Benchmark Grand Slam

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 speed common in business applications), SPECfp2006 (measuring floating point-calculating speed required for scientific applications), SPECjbb2005 (measuring Java™ performance in business operations per second) and TPC-C (measuring transaction processing capability) (1). 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 (5).

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. “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: a Convention-Shattering Design

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:

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.

IBM plans to introduce the POWER6 chip throughout the System p and System i server lines.

World’s first UNIX server with active virtual machine mobility

Also announced today, IBM is unveiling an industry-first with a new feature that provides customers with the ability to move live virtual machines from one physical UNIX server to another while maintaining continuous availability. Coined the POWER6 Live Partition Mobility function, this technology -- currently in beta, with general availability planned for later this year -- enables customers to move active virtualized partitions without temporarily suspending them.   While competing offerings require a disruptive reboot of the UNIX system and software stack, IBM is the first vendor to help clients optimize resource utilization on a broader scale by allowing administrators to think of large groups of servers as a fluid resource rather than focusing on each server as a single entity with a dedicated purpose.

On the services front, IBM Global Technology Services announced implementation, migration & assessment service products that help clients shorten the time required to plan, implement and integrate new System p POWER6 processor-based servers into their production environment.

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IBM is a trademark of IBM Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. All other company/product names and service marks may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. UNIX is a registered trademark in the United States and other countries licensed exclusively through The Open Group.

TPC-C is a trademark of the Transaction Processing Performance Council. SPEC and the benchmark names SPECint. SPECfp, and SPECjbb are registered trademarks of the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation. Java and all Java-based trademarks and logos are trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. 

All statements regarding IBM's future direction and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice, and represent goals and objectives only.

IBM results to be submitted by 5/21/07. All competitive benchmark results current as of 5/18/07.


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IBM POWER6 -- IBM's new POWER6 chip is a 64 bit, dual-core processor with 790 million transistors running at up to 4.7 GHz and eight megabytes of on chip Level 2 cache. The company today launched its first new POWER6 server, the IBM System p 570, which has set 25 performance benchmark records across a broad range of business and technical applications.

Two IBM Transistors -- This cross section of a new IBM POWER6, 64-bit dual-core microprocessor was photographed using a scanning electron microscope and shows two transistors, shown as a gold color, out of the 790 million on this thumbnail sized chip. At 4.7 GHz, the dual-core POWER6 processor doubles the speed of the previous chips with virtually no increase in electrical consumption.

IBM POWER6 -- Hundreds of IBM POWER6 microprocessors on a silicon wafer. The wafer is cut into individual chips that are then packaged and then built into new IBM servers that offer twice the performance with virtually no increase in energy consumption. Each chip has two cores, runs at speeds up to 4.7 GHz, and contains 790 million transistors.

World's Fastest Chip -- IBM today introduced servers based on its new POWER6 microprocessor. POWER6 is the fastest microprocessor ever built and contains many technological breakthroughs that provide twice the performance with virtually no increase in energy consumption. The IBM System p570 servers pictured here are being readied for delivery at IBM's Rochester, Minnesota manufacturing facility.

IBM POWER6 microprocessors arrive-- IBM Test Manufacturing Technician B.J. Barrett tests POWER6 microprocessors at the company's Burlington, Vermont facility. IBM today launched its first POWER6-based systems that set new benchmarks for speed, energy efficiency and virtualization capabilities.

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1 (1) IBM TPC-C result of 1,616,162 tpmC, $3.54 on a 16-core (8 processor chips, 32 threads) 4.7 GHz POWER6 IBM System p570 (configuration planned to be available 11/21/07) running DB2 Enterprise 9 on AIX 5L V5.3 is best in class 16-core system; IBM System p570 1-core (4.7 GHz, 1 chip, 2 cores/chip,1 thread/core) SPECint2006 result of 21.6; IBM System p570 1-core (4.7 GHz, 1 chip, 2 cores/chip,1 thread/core) SPECfp2006 result of 22.3; IBM SPECjbb2005 result of 691,975 bops (86,497 bops/JVM) on a 16-core (8 chips, 32 threads) 4.7 GHz POWER6 IBM System p570 running AIX 5L V5.3 is best in class 16-core system.

2 (2) IBM TPC-C result of 1,616,162 tpmC, $3.54 on a 16-core (8 processor chips, 32 threads) 4.7 GHz POWER6 IBM System p570 (configuration planned to be available 11/21/07) running DB2 Enterprise 9 on AIX 5L V5.3 vs. HP TPC-C result of 4,092,799 tpmC, $2.93/tpmC on a 128-core (64 chips, 256 threads) 1.6 GHz Intel® Itanium® 2 Integrity Superdome (configuration available 8/23/07)

3 (3) The virtualized system count and energy savings were derived from several factors: A performance factor of 5X was applied to the virtualization scenario based on SPEC® results source: . System p 570 (16-core, 8 chips, 2 cores per chip, 4.7 GHz) SPECjbb2005 691,975 bops, 86497 bops/JVM submitted on 5/21/2007; Sun Fire v890 (16-core, 8 chips, 2 cores per chip) 1.5 GHz, SPECjbb2005 117,986 bops, 29,497 bops/JVM as of 4/27/2007. A virtualization factor of 3X was applied to the virtualization scenario using utilizations derived from studies conducted by IBM available at A factor of 2X was used to represent the ability to install two 16-core System p 570 systems in a single rack. Power consumption figures of 5600 W for the IBM System p570 and 3200 W for the Sun Fire v890 were based on the maximum rates published by IBM and Sun Microsystems, respectively. Air conditioning power requirement estimated at 50% of system power requirement. Energy cost of $.0928 per kWh is based on 2007 YTD US Average Retail price to commercial customers per US DOE at as of 5/18/2007. Datacenter floor space cost was estimated as of 5/3/2007 based on Alinean, Inc.’s ROI Analyst software. The reduction in floor space, power, cooling and software costs depends on the specific customer, environment, workload, and application requirements.

4 (4) Source: IDC Q406 and FY06 Server Tracker, 02/24/07, rolling four quarter average.

5 (5) Benchmarks can be found at