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IBM Hardware

IBM Releases Power7 Processor 231

Posted by kdawson
from the of-cores dept.
Dan Jones writes "As discussed here last year, IBM has made good on its promise to release the Power7 processor (and servers) in the first half of 2010. The Power7 processor adds more cores and improved multithreading capabilities to boost the performance of servers requiring high up-time, according to Big Blue. Power7 chips will run between 3.0GHz and 4.14GHz and will come with four, six, or eight cores. The chips are being made using the 45-nm process technology. New Power7 servers (up to 64 cores for now) are said to deliver twice the performance of older Power6 systems, but are four times more energy efficient. Power7 servers will run AIX and Linux." And reader shmG notes Intel's release of a new Itanium server processor after two years of delays. The Power7 specs would seem to put the new Intel chip in the shade.
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IBM Releases Power7 Processor

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  • 4.14GHz? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What happened to the "3GHz ceiling"? Why can IBM go above it but Intel, AMD and VIA are stuck below it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      Different architecture maybe? A little bit like how RISC could clock faster than CISC back in the day.

    • Re:4.14GHz? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Totenglocke (1291680) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:48AM (#31068870)
      You mean how you can buy a 3.4 GHz Phenom II X4 from AMD? That 3.0 GHz ceiling?
    • Re:4.14GHz? (Score:4, Funny)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:51AM (#31068884) Journal

      There probably were better ways of increasing computational speed using multicore processor designs than just increasing the clock speed. Kind of like going from a V4 engine to V6 being a better option in terms of power than increasing the individual piston HP of the V4 from 25 to 30.

      • What stops you from doing *both*? ^^

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wizardforce (1005805)

          Cost. Spending an extra 500$ to double the power makes sense. Spending 5,000$ to increase the power a measly 20% is rather foolish either way you look at it by comparison.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by amorsen (7485)

            Spending 5,000$ to increase the power a measly 20% is rather foolish either way you look at it by comparison.

            Not if your work load doesn't scale with additional cores. Then $5000 for 20% extra speed can be worth it.

            • The cost of producing these higher clock speeds appears to be very cost and technologically prohibitive. The operations that can't be parallelized are apparently not important enough to justify higher clock speeds.

              • by amorsen (7485)

                Well it gives IBM a niche to fit the POWER in -- a niche which Intel would have liked to fit the Itanium in as well. Most people won't spend $12k per CPU though.

      • Re:4.14GHz? (Score:5, Funny)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @01:50AM (#31069162) Journal

        There probably were better ways of increasing computational speed using multicore processor designs than just increasing the clock speed. Kind of like going from a V4 engine to V6 being a better option in terms of power than increasing the individual piston HP of the V4 from 25 to 30.

        Back in my day, manufacturers used to slap a turbo button on the front of the case.
        And we liked it that way.
        Now get off my lawn!

        • by porl (932021)

          hahaha i remember back in the day trying to argue with a guy at school that my 'xt' machine was faster than his '386' one because i had a turbo button and he didn't. it was even called 'hal 2 turbo' from memory, which, after having seen 2001 space odyssey is even *more* awesome than i thought back then haha

        • Re:4.14GHz? (Score:4, Funny)

          by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @07:22AM (#31070334)

          "Back in my day, manufacturers used to slap a turbo button on the front of the case.
          And we liked it that way."

          Noobs...
          Back in MY day, I used to wax the strings on my abacus to lessen bead friction.
          We LOVED it that way.
          Now get off my peat bog!

    • Re:4.14GHz? (Score:4, Informative)

      by alvinrod (889928) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:53AM (#31068896)
      Actually both AMD and Intel have chips currently clocked over 3 GHz. Some of the newer Intel chips also have something they call Turbo Boost where the chip essentially overclocks itself if it's not using all of its cores. It also looks like AMD has a 3.6 GHz Phenom II X4 chip slated to be released soon. It would appear that the companies found solutions to whatever ceilings may have existed. VIA doesn't target the high-end of the market so I don't think that they're producing any chips that would run at those clock speeds.
    • Re:4.14GHz? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:54AM (#31068900)

      First, there is no 3GHz ceiling, so you're begging the question. Second, these processors use specialized cooling - not run of the mill cheapo barely-enough heatsinks. If AMD or Intel spent $20 more on their heatsinks, they'd easily be selling 3.4-3.8GHz processors. But the profit margin isn't there. Third, power usage hikes as you increase voltage high enough to hit those speeds. Most people running nuclear explosion simulations on a 4GHz processor don't care, people running 30,000 machines in a design center...do care.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        If AMD or Intel spent $20 more on their heatsinks, they'd easily be selling 3.4-3.8GHz processors. ...
        Third, power usage hikes as you increase voltage high enough to hit those speeds.

        You’re contradicting yourself. The reason they can in fact not easily ramp up the CPU speed, is exactly this increase in voltage. Which increases temperature at a cubic speed relative to processor speed. (See the Pentium 4, for what that results in.)

        And because your bring not a single actual argument to why you think there is no 3GHz ceiling (actually it’s a gray area above 3 GHz), I call your argument... busted! ;)

        • Re:4.14GHz? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @01:17AM (#31069012)

          There's no contradiction. Power usage is less of an issue on higher end "enthusiast" chips. They could easily sell 3.6GHz chips in this space with better heatsinks (as evidenced by...people running them at 4GHz easily on air cooling).

          In the commodity space, even with better cooling, the power usage increases disproportionately as voltage goes up. There is a sweet spot, and it isn't currently >3GHz.

          Finally, I didn't point out why there is no 3GHz ceiling because it takes 30 seconds of googling to see that there are currently chips selling at > 3GHz, and there have in the past been x86 CPUs up to 3.73GHz.

          Busted my ass.

          • Re:4.14GHz? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @04:57AM (#31069788) Journal

            The reason why AMD and Intel don't push the high end chips is frankly there just isn't much of a market for them ATM. Since most of the games being released are for console first and PC second, they simply aren't being bottle-necked by the CPU. This is also why AMD and Nvidia are having to push multiscreen and GPGPU, because frankly a less than $100 card will play a good 80%+ of the games out there.

            Second for the jobs the average Joes are doing, web surfing, music/video, maybe the occasional video conversion, even the lower end chips are well past "good enough" for them. I have been selling a lot of low end AMD dual and triple core machines lately, and all I hear from my customers is "how fast" they are, and how they never seem to slow down. With hardware acceleration on the motherboard these 2.4GHz-2.8GHz duals and triples are frankly overkill, with most of the time the CPU twiddling its thumbs. I myself bought a 925 quad when they got so cheap, but a good 90% of the time the chip is barely above idle.

            So it isn't that AMD and Intel can't make them, because we have seen in the past they can, it is just there really isn't much of a market for them. To get faster than 3.2GHz you really start cranking up the heat and the power, and that equals higher electric bills most folks don't want, not to mention having fans that sound like a F15 taking off isn't very pleasant. With the new 95w like my 925 the chips rarely get above 83f idle and so far mine has maxed at 109f doing video transcoding. And the 65w duals are so quiet I have to watch when setting them up I don't turn them off when I mean to turn them on, because i simply don't hear any noise. Folks nowadays seem to care much more about that than the MHz race anymore.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by afidel (530433)
        Intel did 3.73 Ghz as the top end for Netburst (Xeon 5080) but it was a fairly poor performer on a MIPS/Watt basis. In fact the 5160 running at 3.0Ghz did about 33% higher Specfp and run at 80W instead of 130W for the 5080 (35.2 specfp_2000/watt vs 15.5).
    • by Gerzel (240421) *

      Fairy dust! IBM has captured several pixies and uses them to craft its magical chips.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't forget that one of those 4GHz CPUs probably costs over 10 times as much as an equivalent Intel or AMD part. A decent PC costs as much as a car payment -- a decent POWER machine costs as much as a car.

      The price is old, but a couple years ago a 5GHz Power6 CPU cost $15k for a dual-core module (with 4 threads) plus $30k to activate each core. That means you'd pay $75k total to use both cores of the CPU module. I'm sure Intel would have no problem supplying 5GHz CPUs at $75k each, but it's unlikely that t

  • by the linux geek (799780) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:48AM (#31068864)
    POWER and Itanium are architecturally so different that kdawson's snide "put this new Intel chip in the shade" comment is kind of nonsensical. Itanium is superscalar to an extent that POWER doesn't come close to, with each core being able to execute up to six instructions per cycle. While its possible that POWER7 is faster, its also more expensive to get a reasonable configuration and the performance difference between the two is not as clear-cut as our illustrious editor is trying to suggest.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Itanium is more that just superscalar, it is explicit parallelism. You can accomplish the same feat with superscalar and out-of-order execution but it takes far more silicon and it tends to have some odd corner cases.

      POWER and Itanium are both pretty slick architectures but Itanium is definitely a generation later in design. If only Intel were willing to bet the company on it, about 10 years ago, we would all be using it today.

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        Had Intel bet the company on it, AMD would likely be the dominant processor vendor today...

        It doesn't matter how good the IA64 architecture is, customers want to run their existing applications, most of which are compiled for x86 and don't come with source code. That leaves you with emulation, which i doubt Intel could make faster than native... Intel can't move to a new architecture because they are held back by all the millions of closed source applications out there.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          That leaves you with emulation, which i doubt Intel could make faster than native...

          If only you could go back in time and convince Intel of this! The first generation of Itaniums actually did x86 emulation in hardware. A brilliant idea: the only problem with it was that it was actually slower than software emulators (which themselves were pretty slow).

          Anyway I don't think Itanium was every supposed to replace x86. This was before x86-64 existed and Intel thought it would be their only 64-bit chip.

          Intel can

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by imgod2u (812837)

        That whole philosophy went out the window when Intel couldn't make a compiler good enough to make Itanium work well in all situation; which to this day -- despite having more software engineers than silicon guys -- they still don't.

        Scheduling things beforehand will only get you so much. It sounds good on paper in a "look how much silicon we save" kind of way but the reality is, explicit parallelism and static scheduling simply aren't good in this day of variable memory latencies, multi-tiered caches and peo

    • by ZiakII (829432)
      I'm not sure what your trying to say here could you use a car analogy?
      • by GenP (686381)
        Itanium: vrooom!, vrooom! POWER: putt, putt, putt
      • by teg (97890)

        I'm not sure what your trying to say here could you use a car analogy?

        Ferrari vs volvo Truck? Straight out speed, vs. load capacity.

    • by Wesley Felter (138342) <wesley@felter.org> on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:59AM (#31068926) Homepage

      POWER and Itanium are architecturally so different...

      That doesn't matter; they both address the same market (high-end Unix) and thus they are competitors.

      Itanium is superscalar to an extent that POWER doesn't come close to, with each core being able to execute up to six instructions per cycle.

      Yeah, POWER7 can only execute... six instructions per cycle. And you might indeed say that an in-order Itanium at 1.7 GHz doesn't come close to an out-of-order POWER7 at 3+ GHz.

      While its possible that POWER7 is faster, its also more expensive to get a reasonable configuration...

      Since no Tukwila servers have been announced, we don't even know how much they will cost.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MrNemesis (587188)

        Since no Tukwila servers have been announced, we don't even know how much they will cost.

        As a sysadmin for a company with POWER5 and 6 equipment, all I can say is if you have to ask you can't afford it. Part of the reason why jumping ship to RHEL + Oracle running on a VMware cluster is looking increasingly appealing to managment.

    • Itanium is superscalar to an extent that POWER doesn't come close to, with each core being able to execute up to six instructions per cycle.

      Hate to break it to you but POWER7 can dispatch 6 instructions per cycle as well.

      That little fact was revealed last year during the Hot Chips 21 presentation.

  • That's all fun but it doesn't answer the real question : Can it run Crysis?
    • by skine (1524819) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @01:58AM (#31069186)

      I think you clicked the wrong link on Tom's Hardware.

      The question here is whether it can run Linux - followed shortly by a debate on how terrible Ubuntu is.

      • by amorsen (7485)

        The question here is whether it can run Linux - followed shortly by a debate on how terrible Ubuntu is.

        Yes, it can. And approximately <------> this horrible.

    • I'm not sure, but their pre-lease benchmarks on Duke Nuke'em forever was off the chart. No. Really. True story.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      I think the big-iron IBM philosophy response to that question is "Eh, throw that shit on an expansion card and we'll virtualize it fir ya."
  • Ah, AIX (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wandazulu (265281) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:53AM (#31068894)

    AIX....the last Unix you can't just "get" a copy of, but need to actually buy the hardware (a la the Mac). We had a Power box at work with AIX for awhile, but its configuration tools was quite ... unique among Unix flavors (though I was told it was pretty straightforward IBM) and I had a horrible time getting GCC to work with it; most every F/OSS package I came across either straight up wasn't tested on AIX (because no one had the hardware), or it had a whole separate setup (I believe one of the standard lines running ./configure is "Is this an AIX system?").

    I recall the box being wicked fast when we were running Oracle on it; it was a "small" Power machine but it still could handle a monster database with hundreds of millions of rows with no trouble. Frankly, I was sort-of sad to see it go; I really did want to get more familiar with it, but apparently the maintenance costs IBM was charging made it a non-starter. Plus, ultimately, it seems that it just wasn't very OSS friendly; xlc is apparently an amazing compiler for the PowerPC, but they wanted $6000 for a license per developer. Plus, and I'm sorry if this is nitpicking, but to have the C compiler called xlc and the C++ compiler called xlC was just, well, insane.

    What I really wanted to do was get Linux on it, and Oracle even has a Linux-on-Power version of their database, but there seemed to be some grumbling from the IBM salespeople (according to my boss) that they discourage people from running Linux on Power....I guess you (according to them) need AIX to unleash the real "power" in the PowerPC.

    Sigh, okay, whatever. back to Linux on x86-64.

  • Apple skunkworks? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bobdotorg (598873) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @12:54AM (#31068898)

    I'm curious whether or not Apple is maintaining a parallel dev. of OSX for this line of IBM chips the same way that the Intel version of OSX was lurking in the dark from 2000 until 2006.

    • Lol. No, they're not.
      • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @01:38AM (#31069110) Homepage Journal

        LOL You're in no position to know.

        I am, however. But my NDA forbids me from saying anything.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      i find it more likely that they are looking into running osx on a multi-core cortex-A9 or later, with some special sauce from PA semi added on top.

    • Apple doesn't need to do skunk works, all they need (and possibly do) is make sure they don't use any X86 specific stuff to the point of not being able to release it for any other CPU arch. Who would be that stupid? Well, Adobe. Adobe couldn't release their half ass Premiere for PPC along with another half ass audio editor making Premiere a further joke until Apple switched to X86.

      As Apple maintains OS X for ARM Arch right now (via iPhone/iPad OSX), they aren't really doing the mistake of relying to X86 arc

  • Commercial sales? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @01:12AM (#31068990) Homepage

    I have to wonder why IBM is (at least, as of now) limiting these processors in their own hardware.

    I can understand the initial economic advantage: they'd gain more profit from server sales, and would be able to sell Linux servers at a fairly non-trivial mark-up (on base hardware cost, to them).

    But what is gained there is probably trivial compared to commercial marketing of the chips/boards (OEM sales). I suspect it might also avoid scrutiny from antitrust lawyers more easily. Why wouldn't they do this? I'd certainly love a processor like that; it'd be incredible. 1/4th the power envelope of the Power6, and twice the performance (assuming it means core clock)? That's incredible: the 3.2GHz Power6 is rated at under 100W TDP.

    Such a processor might just sway Apple to go back to the Power architecture, I'd think. Linux will run on them, obviously; the only thing you couldn't run on them is Windows (and even that might be possible down the road with only a little work on MS's part).

    The only two reasons I can imagine are 'exclusivity' and 'insufficient fab capacity'. That second one would certainly do it on its own.

    • IBM is a low-volume high-margin company. They don't see a lot of gain from doing the R&D so they can make these chips at a reasonable price and then taking the much smaller profit margins from them when they can make billions in profit from selling their own hardware. In addition, they want to be the only viable upgrade pathway for their existing customers - a while ago a company (Platform Solutions) tried selling Itanium mainframes with an emulation layer for running Z/OS and they got sued into the gro
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wesley Felter (138342)

      A non-IBM POWER7 system would end up looking pretty much like an IBM POWER7 system, and you can bet it wouldn't be cheaper, so what's the point? If you want POWER7, buy it from IBM.

      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

        Why do you suppose being able to buy similar systems from multiple vendors wouldn't drive down the price?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rtaylor (70602)

          You don't spend $10,000 per CPU then put in a small amount of crappy ram and a single tiny SATA harddisk.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know what a 3.2GHz Power6 costs, but last I checked a 4.2GHz Power6 cost $12k! Somehow I don't think Apple will be swayed to using them unless IBM can sell them at 1% of their current price.

      dom

    • by nxtw (866177)

      I suspect it might also avoid scrutiny from antitrust lawyers more easily.

      Antitrust laws don't apply to big companies just because they're big companies...

      I'd certainly love a processor like that; it'd be incredible.

      Significantly more incredible one or two quad-core AMD or Intel x86-64 CPUs?

      Such a processor might just sway Apple to go back to the Power architecture

      Why? Does IBM have anything that compares in power usage and performance to a mobile x86-64 CPU, such as the 2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU in my lapt

    • by amorsen (7485)

      1/4th the power envelope of the Power6

      I don't read it that way. I read it as 1/4th the power/performance. I bet they'll be 100W+ like the Power 6, just 4 times as powerful.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      The ability to run windows (either under a vm or natively) helps sell quite a few apple machines these days, it gives people a fallback if they don't like osx or an option if they have a few windows apps they require.
      Also, Apple sell a lot of laptops, a POWER7 would not really be suitable.

  • LPARs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @01:35AM (#31069096)

    IBM gear gets you LPARs, with a real hypervisor that is laps ahead of all the other stuff.

  • Imagine a PowerMac with a couple of these in it, and assload (actual technical term for large quantity) of RAM and a big display?

    Oh, I forgot, the new improved Apple has told us that the Intel chip give us, the users, better performance.

    I actually think Apple started it's slide into evildom with switching from Power to Intel.

    Oh well, we can dream.

    • Imagine a PowerMac with a couple of these in it, and assload (actual technical term for large quantity) of RAM and a big display?

      Yeah and it would sell miserably at around $75,000 a piece.

      Oh, I forgot, the new improved Apple has told us that the Intel chip give us, the users, better performance.

      Considering that you could buy around 30 of the highest end i7s for the same price as a single Power7 I would think you would get far better performance per dollar.

  • I've ran through the performance numbers announced by IBM and what I found at spec.org (specint_rate & specfp_rate) of the other CPU's and roughly the following picture (give/take 20%):

    • Power6/Power7: about 30 spec_int/fp_rate/core
    • Intel Core i7: about 30 spec_int/fp_rate/core
    • Sparc: about 10 spec_int/fp_rate/core
    • Itanium 2: about 12 spec_int/fp_rate/core

    So it looks to me that performance-wise Power and x86_64 are similar. Both seem almost three times as fast as Itanium/Sparc. However. in the commerci

  • Rumour has it that this baby is going to be the CPU of the Playstation 4 [playfire.com] in 2012.
    • by Viol8 (599362)

      Lets hope it looks better than that hideous mock up photo. My mum has a kitchen radio that looks similar to that.

      Why can't Sony just build a playstation that looks like a nice sophisticated piece of stacking hi-fi instead of either
      something that looks like it escaped from toys-r-us (PS1 & 2) or looks like something Bauhaus would have in their
      living room (PS3) ?

  • I can understand why you would get a Power chip for pure number crunching.
    But having a lot of data to chew away, I use p-threading for the larger jobs and let the rest of the jobs over to the os.

    I was always under the assumption that data has to be delivered to the cpu fast, very fast and since the Power6 rs6000 only supports ddr2 I don't get it.

    We recently bought a new rs6000, which has the Power6 in it(still has to be delivered), but the memory is 'only' ddr2, can someone enlighten me why this machine wou

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