Server Farming

Jul 23 2009   1:55PM GMT

Details on the upcoming Power7 processor

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

IBM this week revealed details about its upcoming Power7 processor, confirming that it will be a 45-nanometer chip with 4, 6 or 8 cores. Each core will have up to 4 computing threads, meaning there could be up to 32 threads on a single Power7 chip.

The Power7 processor is expected out next year, with Steve Sibley, IBM Power Systems platform manager, saying IBM will try to get it out by mid-year. Other details on the chip: It will use DDR3 memory, have expanded cache and included embedded DRAM. Sibley wouldn’t disclose clock speeds but it is expected to be in the 3-4 GHz range. He said more details will come out at the HotChips conference next month in California.

Assuming the Power 595 server will retain its current architecture of up to 32 sockets, that means with Power7 chips it could have up to 256 processor cores and 1,024 computing threads.

Of course, IBM doesn’t want its Power Systems customers to wait around until the Power7 is released. So it announced a swap program. Users who have or buy a Power 570 or a Power 595 box now will be able to swap the Power7 processor book in for the Power6 or Power6+ processors they have there now. When I asked why lower-end systems weren’t involved in the swap program, Sibley said there is less interest among users in upgrading lower-end systems. When those servers get outdated, he said, end users tend to just move them to test and development environments.

Part of IBM’s goal is obviously to prevent the sales lull that often comes before a new chip release, but it also gives users options for buying now and swapping later without switching up the box’s serial number. In addition, swapping in the Power7 chips will not cost as much as buying a whole new box, though IBM hasn’t released any prices. Finally, the swap program is back-dated, so you don’t need to buy a box right now to get the swap. If you have a Power6 or Power6+ 570 or 595 now, you will be eligible for a serial-number protecting upgrade.

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