Unix-Linux news and commentary

Nov 13 2009   1:38PM GMT

POWER7 is coming: Here’s a preview

PowerTCO Ken Milberg Profile: PowerTCO

For you IBM Unix (AIX) guys out there – look out, the POWER7 is coming, though I don’t have an exact release date as of yet. For my Unix brethren who are not as familiar with this architecture – this is the next generation of IBM hardware (POWER6 was released in 2007), which AIX runs on exclusively

The Power7 will be based on a single-chip, eight-core cluster of processors – a leap from prior generations of the Power architecture, in which the largest number of CPU cores on a die was two. The chip can scale up to 32 sockets, or 256 CPUs in a single hardware-coherency fabric. This contrasts with PC CPUs, which are intended only for much smaller coherency networks. By balancing execution speed, memory bandwidth and latency – architects who have designed the chip have tried to make systems that can scale up to 256 CPU cores without experiencing a sharp drop-off in performance-per-core.  The way in which they did this – was to not use cache on a separate die in a multi-chip module. It also is set in to weight at 1.2 billion transistors. Power7 bumps both the number of cores and the performance per core over its predecessor – the Power6. Its eight cores will provide support of up to four simultaneous multithreading (SMT4) threads for a total of 32 threads per chip.

Other good news is that along with improvements in the hardware, IBM will improve on its midrange virtualization engine – PowerVM. Innovations include:

  • IBM Systems Director VMControl, which will provide clients a tool to manage heterogeneous virtual servers. In doing so – it will allow users to discover, display, monitor and locate virtual resources; create and manage virtual servers; and deploy and manage workloads with a common interface across IBM System z (mainframes) System x (x86) and Power Systems (AIX, Linux and System i/AS400) platforms.
  • One of the virtualization enhancements will be to allow clients to consolidate up to 1,000 virtual machines per system – up from a max of 254 with the Power5 and Power6.

Furthermore – folks that currently have Power6 and Power6+ iron today will have an upgrade path into the new boxes. Rumors are also that AIX 7 may follow the Power7 iron about 3 months after its release – though AIX 6.1 will get patches to support the Power7 chips. I don’t have any information yet about AIX 5.3 support. I will update the group when more information comes in and also when in 2010 the official release of the Power7 will be.

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