IBM Makes 'Watson' Servers Even Smarter

Updated Power 7 architecture now offers workload-optimized software for vertical industries such as healthcare, financial services, and R&D.
IBM on Tuesday beefed up its Power 7 lineup with updates that add more horsepower to the Jeopardy-champ servers.

The Power 750 Express, the same system that vanquished a series of opponents on the popular TV game show, now features a faster processor and built-in analytics software geared for vertical industries like healthcare, financial services, or scientific research and development.

The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth is using the system to study black holes. "We are running billions of intense calculations based on Einstein's theory of relativity on the Power 7 blades," said Dartmouth professor Gaurav Khanna. "Calculations that used to take a month are now finished in less than a week."

IBM cites figures from the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation that show the new 32-core Power 7 architecture is three times faster than comparable systems from Oracle and doubles the speed of HP's Integrity BL890c i2 Integrity server.

IBM unveiled its line of Power7 servers last year. The Power 780, Power 770, Power 755 are enterprise systems, while the Power 750 Express is for mid-market customers who don't need the capacity of the higher-end models.

All are based on the new Power7 processor, the full specs of which might fill a phonebook. The upshot, however, is that Power7 chips can run 32 simultaneous tasks thanks to an 8-core architecture and four virtual cores, or threads, per core. That's 4-times the maximum number of cores found in Power6 systems and 8-times the number of threads.

Power7 also features TurboCore mode for intense database and transactional environments such as Wall Street.

TurboCore shifts resources from non-active cores to active cores on-the-fly to increase memory, bandwidth and clock speed. Power7's "Intelligent Threads" technology also affords dynamic resource allocation depending on workloads, while Memory Expansion uses compression technology to virtually double the amount of physical memory available to an application. IBM shares were trading flat at $162.82 in midday trading.