Scaling Up: IBM Thinks Big For PowerPCs - InformationWeek

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6/5/2003
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Scaling Up: IBM Thinks Big For PowerPCs

Not to be outdone by developments in the x86 market, IBM has big plans for its PowerPC architecture next year. The next-generation Power5 will offer simultaneous multithreading capabilities similar to those Intel offers with its hyperthreading technology and Sun Microsystems is planning to offer with its throughput computing strategy.

The Power5 will scale to 64 processors, whereas the current generation of Power4 chips scale to 32 processors. It also will push IBM's On-Demand strategy. "On-Demand requires a flexible system that's able to adjust to the surrounding computing environment," says Joel Tendler, director of technology assessment for IBM's systems group. "And it only works if you have a highly reliable platform."

Power5-based servers will feature improved logical partitioning, allowing more than 100 partitions per physical server. "Historically, within Unix systems, you have low utilization rates," Tendler says. Partitioning servers to run multiple applications simultaneously is one way to boost utilization rates. The new Power5 servers will let users reassign partitions without taking down the system.

IBM has revamped its entire line of PowerPC-based pSeries servers since the beginning of the year. IBM in mid-May introduced an entry-level pSeries server featuring a Power4+ processor and self-managing capabilities typically found in bigger, more-expensive servers. A week earlier, the p690, p670, and p655 debuted, all with Power4+ processors. IBM launched its first Linux-ready pSeries server, the p630, in December. The p630 runs a 64-bit version of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and is available in single-processor, two-way, and four-way configurations.

Although Sun has moved to embrace the Intel platform, the company also is enhancing its 64-bit, RISC-based UltraSparc processors. In March, Sun introduced its Throughput Computing strategy, which will use chip designs from its Afara Websystems acquisition to develop UltraSparc processors that can perform 15 times faster than today's UltraSparc IIi processor. Looking beyond 2005, the company plans to ship processors that can provide up to 30 times the system performance available today on the UltraSparc III Cu.

The throughput computing strategy takes into account the system as a whole to generate better performance and lower latency. "The objective is to keep the CPU busy at all times," says David Yen, executive VP of Sun processor and network products. "Sun believes in this strategy. That's why we continue to invest in Sparc and Solaris."

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