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IBM Ships Fastest CPU on Earth 410

HockeyPuck writes "The 5-billion-instructions-per second Power6 processor from IBM would beat such rivals as the 3.73 gigahertz Pentium Extreme and the 2.4 gigahertz UltraSparc T2 from Sun. 'It's hard to make the average person understand just how fast this is,' said IBM Chief Technology Officer Bernard Meyerson, offering an example meant to explain his company's baby that still leaves the listener awed with the speediness of the two laggards. 'Hold your index finger out in front of your face,' Meyerson said in a telephone interview from IBM headquarters in New York. 'In less time than it would take a beam of light to travel from your knuckle to your fingertip, the new IBM chip would complete one task and start looking for the next, he said.'"
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IBM Ships Fastest CPU on Earth

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  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @08:51AM (#23023164)
    ob disc: I work at sun (but not ON those chips).

    I write management software that lets admins turn on/off/standby (etc) the state of the various 'cpus' (threads, as sun calls them). there are 128 and 256 cpus in a regular 2u..4u style rackmount box. these are 'simple' air cooled systems with fans blowing over the whole U-style chassis and over the passive cpu heatsinks. nothing 'scary' at all, really.

    it is pretty wild to be able to do the equiv of 'show cpu' and have an ascii output scroll 64, 128 and even 256 times; one for each 'cool thread' which is a real actual processor element.

    the down side is that this threading stuff does not automatically get you faster speed on a SINGLE non-threaded traditional task. as I understand it, these T-series sun boxes are meant to process a lot of transactions (think webservers) and not so much number crunching.

    how do you define 'fastest chip'? well, one thing is for sure, you do NOT simply go by 'gigahertz' alone. that's really an oversimplification.
  • obscured objectives (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hojima ( 1228978 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @08:58AM (#23023232)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't most of the algorithms for scientific simulations run just as well on parallel processors? If this is the case, it makes more sense to have cheaper processors (both to manufacture and run) so that the cap on the IPS is raised just as well (the cap being the ratio of the amount of funds an organization can allocate to these emulators versus the cost of the emulators). Though I'm no computer expert, it seems that making one sequential processor run faster isn't as efficient as making that same processor cost a fraction of the price to get more power from your dollar.
  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @09:13AM (#23023366)
    There are indeed many algorithms that run well in a parallelized environment. IBM even makes the world's fastest supercomputers that take advantage of this fact.

    However, there are many other tasks fit for computers that do not parallelize well. In addition, writing massively parallelized software is often quite HARD. It is far easier to design software for a single CPU running very quickly, than a whole boatload of CPU's running slower. There have in fact been quite a few articles in CS journals lately wondering how on earth software is going to be written for all these new bunch-o-cores CPUs. While it can be done, it is tedious, expensive, and error-prone for all but the most trivial tasks.

  • Re:It's a ploy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @09:36AM (#23023632)

    The switch from PPC to Intel wasn't really about performance or pricing. It was about supply and logistics. Both the Motorola and IBM PPC chips were custom chips from their Power architecture as neither company sold CPUs for general consumer computers. IBM made chips mostly for workstations and servers (which were considerably more powerful and expensive).

    Like most manufacturers, Apple, IBM, and Motorola do not want to keep a large inventory of anything. So Apple would only order and project as much as they thought they needed. IBM and Motorola would allocate enough resources for Apple's forecasts. But the problem was Apple was selling Macs faster than they anticipated. So they would order more. Neither IBM or Motorola could keep up with the increased supply.

    Even if they ordered millions of chips a year, Apple was never going to be IBM's or Motorola's largest customer. They could not dedicate large amounts of resources for one custom product line of one customer when they had much larger customers (for IBM, their own workstation/server division. for Motorola, their electronics division). At most, Apple was their highest profile customer.

    From Apple's standpoint, they were tired of not getting enough CPUs. So if they switched to a stock Intel chip, their supply problems because more manageable. Because for Intel it wouldn't be a small customer ordering more of a specialized part; it would be a small customer order more of the stock part.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @09:46AM (#23023726) Homepage Journal
    Apple's development tools continue to generate binaries that support both Intel and PowerPC, and they continue to support the operating system on both architectures, so why not? Yes, I know, there's a difference between POWER and PowerPC, but it's not a big difference -- after all, you run the same version of Linux on an IBM pSeries that you do on a Power Mac.

    Apple would have buying leverage against both IBM and Intel by being able to shift portions of their manufacturing from one architecture to another with each model. And they'd have access to some of the fastest processors on earth. Can you imagine one of these things powering Photoshop, or even rendering the next Pixar movie?
  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Thursday April 10, 2008 @10:11AM (#23024014) Homepage

    I think it's a neat calculation. We've all lost track of what fast actually means for a modern CPU.
    I don't think so. There is still the good old 'benchmark' which we call games or when you don't have games for the CPU, just measure the speed in consoles. "This thing is as fast as a dozen PS3" would give a reasonably good idea of its speed. That whole "finger in front of your face" is just plain bullshit and doesn't give you any idea whatsoever in relation to other devices.
  • by helicologic ( 845077 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @10:41AM (#23024452)
    It's very useful to remember that the speed of light is about a billion feet per second, or a foot in a billionth of a second. He was just looking for a measure that is 1/5 of a foot long.
  • by Wisconsingod ( 995241 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @10:51AM (#23024572) Journal
    Do you realize that when you google "bogipigips", the only result you get is this slashdot thread. I guess you have defined a new word :)
  • Water cooled? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mmell ( 832646 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @12:08PM (#23025700)
    So, let me make sure I understand this (because I've seen quite a few gaming rigs built to use water/oil/freon cooling) . . .

    They're overclocking the POWER6 chip, is that right? Sure, IBM, Cray, DEC et. al. used to do this routinely on big iron back in the day when computer technology was still a science. I still remember seeing a beautiful oil "waterfall" on the front of some mainframes. It wasn't called overclocking back then - it was just how things were done. Now, with computing being a commodity, most companies don't bother with this - too unreliable, too bulky, too power-hungry. Remember, the weakest part of any electronic device is the mechanical aspect and water cooling involves a lot of mechanical processes. You've really got to have a need for speed to bother with this (and, yes, some big environments have such a need - but not many).

    For those few environments which need this much speed per processor, this is an important development. Just don't count on it ever impacting the average desktop (commodity) system - the technology won't "trickle down" (unlike the coolant?).

  • by kalirion ( 728907 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @01:17PM (#23026686)
    So how would this CPU compare to a Core2Duo E8400 overclocked to 5GHz []?

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"