The Power of the P6

Arthur Cole

IBM broke more than just a few speed benchmarks with the introduction of its Power6 chip this week. It also broke the mold of the past few years by upping the speed of the newest processors, rather than processor cores.

 

The Power6 is a dual-core device that clocks in at 4.7 GHz. Aboard the new p570 server, the company claims top prize in several key SPEC and TPC-C benchmarks. While increased speed has become a no-no for systems integrators over the past few years, due to increased power consumption worries, IBM reports that the power draw is only a few ticks higher than the Power5 chip, but the data rate is doubled, allowing you to save energy by deploying fewer P6 chips.

 

More importantly, however, is how the chip, and the p570 server, stacks up against HP's Itanium-based Superdome server. IBM's own testing reports a three-fold boost in performance with a fully loaded p570 (that's eight P6s). Fortunately for HP, however, IBM won't release that particular machine until the fall -- plenty of time to get the upgraded Itaniums out the door.

 

Two key developments went into the P6. First, the device offers a bandwidth of 300 GBps, nearly 30 times the current generation of Itaniums. Secondly, the on-chip memory cache has been bumped up to 8 MB, four times larger than the Power5.

 

About the only downside to the P6 is the fact that its release wasn't coordinated better with the upcoming AIX operating system. Initial orders for P6-powered System p servers will come with the current 5.3 version of the OS. Version 5.4, however, is said to offer greater advantage of the P6's capabilities. Power6 versions of the System i server are due out by the end of the year.



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