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By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2003-04-28 Print this article Print

But even this impressive capacity and scalability are not the most remarkable parts of the Power4 story. When Microprocessor Report honored the Power4 chip design last year, as its choice for "Best Workstation/Server Processor," it went beyond the usual plaudits for throughput and scalability to note that IBM "actually met shipment schedules publicized two years ago."

We all get a kick, Im sure, out of the "actually" in that quotation; its as if no one ever imagined that such a thing could happen. Indeed, the time its taken to fulfill the promises of Intels IA-64 Itanium—if "fulfill" is yet the word—and the delays of AMDs x86-64 Opteron, which finally shipped last week, must make many of us wonder who can haul our real loads on real roads.

For those of us engaged in high-performance computing projects, with schedules on the walls that cover everything from laying the foundation for the building to making sure that the software will work, it would be nice to feel confident that the processor chips will be there to plug in when we need them.

When you look closely at your enterprise IT architecture, what do you perceive as the speed bumps on the road to productivity? Do you see CPUs in need of a power boost? What I see is a need for higher system throughput: for encryption accelerators for VPN performance, XML accelerators for Web services transactions, solid-state hard disks and in-memory databases for interactive data analysis tasks, and graphics accelerators for image processing and 3-D visualization.

We have excellent platforms now for tasks of every size, and their opportunities for improvement are greater at the edge than at the core. Lets challenge system builders to give us better-balanced designs and reward chip makers for meeting real needs today—not for telling us what we cant attempt until tomorrow. Doing anything else encourages chip makers to achieve their goals, not ours.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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