A Peek Inside the System p

Arthur Cole

Arthur Cole spoke with Charles King, principal analyst, Pund-IT Inc.


Cole: IBM touts the p5 595 as the world's most powerful server now that it's been loaded with the Power 5+ chips. What would you say are its primary applications?
King: There are a couple of ways to look at this. First, IBM is pitching the p595 as the fastest beast on the block for business transaction processing (TPC-C benchmarks). This is traditional UNIX territory that mixes system muscle and blazing speed. At the same time, IBM says that the native Power virtualization available for System p machines makes the p595 a good candidate for supporting application and server consolidation. The IBM Server Consolidation Factory and Tivoli Usage and Accounting Manager both play to this strength, and the former should be particularly valuable for companies considering massive consolidation efforts. So basically the p595 blends top-end performance and notable system flexibility; a bit like an All Pro linebacker who moonlights as a star ballet dancer.


Cole: Heat dissipation is a key consideration on the Power 5+, which the company achieved through "dual-stress" manufacturing. How does dual stress differ from traditional chip design?
King: Dual-stress manufacturing arose in IBM's strained silicon efforts. Basically, IBM scientists figured out a way to simultaneously stretch and compress silicon during the manufacturing process, resulting in up to 24 percent better performance compared to chips manufactured without using the technique. The technology can also be used to lower power consumption. According to IBM, dual-stress techniques can be used to offset problems of electrical leakage and inefficient switching that result in processors operating at higher power and heat levels. Dual-stress technologies have been incorporated in Power 5+ processor manufacturing processes, resulting in increased efficiency/lower power consumption.


Cole: IBM has also developed a new ISA for the Power line. What impact will that have on development?
King: What IBM has done is to create a single ISA for all Power processors, from PowerPC chips used in embedded applications to the company's Power5+ enterprise server processors. Prior to this, there were separate ISAs for IBM Power and PowerPC. A single ISA could simplify product development for some manufacturers, particularly those involved in creating multiple Power-based solutions. It could also potentially open up new opportunities for developers who have previously focused on one or another Power platform, or those who are considering a move to the Power architecture.

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