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IBM Power6 to hit shelves next month in System p server

Big Blue's new Power6 processor claims twice the clock speed and memory cache as Power5 and will make its first appearance in a System p 570 server next month.

IBM has released its Power6 processor and announced that it will first appear in its System p 570 Unix servers in June.

The RISC-designed Power6 chip clocks in at a maximum of 4.7 GHz, more than twice as fast as the latest iteration of Power5. The 65-nanometer-designed chip also has a memory cache of 8 MB per processor, twice as much as the Power5, while consuming about the same amount of power.

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The p 570 will be available June 8 and can include up to eight 4.7 GHz Power6 processors or its smaller counterparts, the 3.5 GHz and 4.2 GHz versions. IBM is claiming top performance on four typical Unix server benchmarks from the Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC) and the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC).

"I think it's an impressive next-generation processor platform," said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Inc. "I think the fact that they basically doubled the performance of Power5 and could do that in the same power envelope is interesting and potentially valuable for customers."

Aside from those muscular boosts, King mentioned other beneficial features. The Power6 performs decimal floating-point calculations in hardware rather than in software, as is typical among Unix processors. King said "it's a valuable addition for companies leveraging Unix for high-end, business-critical financial applications, primarily."

King added that the Power6 has the ability to ramp itself down when processing isn't at as much of a premium. For example, "Monday through Friday" organizations don't need as much compute power on weekends and could virtualize their applications onto fewer processors on the weekends and ramp down the power of the unused chips.

Tom Atwood, a group manager of systems marketing at Sun Microsystems Inc., said that ramping down a processor to save power is good, but with increases in virtualization technology that can often use up the whole chip, it's also important that the chip not use as many watts when it's running at full tilt.

Atwood also wondered when other System p and other IBM systems with Power6 will be available. "What actually is shipping and when?" he asked.

Bradley McCredie, an IBM fellow in the systems and technology group, said Big Blue will be rolling out more Power-6-based System p servers later this year. System i servers using Power6 are expected late this year or early next. McCredie added that one of the System p models will be a Power6-based blade server.

IBM also announced a beta technology called the Power6 Live Partition Mobility that will allow customers to move virtualized server partitions from one physical box to another without any downtime. It is expected to be generally available later this year.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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