IBM Claims World's Fastest Chip

IBM will ship its new z196 processor--slated as the world's fastest chip--on Sept. 10.

The new processors will ship in a new version of the IBM mainframe--the zEnterprise System--that begins shipping to customers on Sept. 10. IBM distinguished engineer, Jim Porell, told eWEEK the chip in IBM's new zEnterprise System clocks in at record-breaking 5.2 GHz speed to handle the growing number of business transactions as global connectivity and data proliferate.

Indeed, in a press release about the new chip, IBM said the world record-breaking speed is necessary for businesses managing huge workloads, such as banks and retailers, especially as the world becomes increasingly more inter-connected, data has grown beyond the world's storage capacity, and business transactions continue to skyrocket.

The z196 processor is a four-core chip that contains 1.4 billion transistors on a 512-square millimeter (mm) surface, Porell said. The chip was designed by IBM engineers in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and was manufactured using IBM's 45 nanometer (nm) SOI processor technology in the company's 300mm fab in East Fishkill, N.Y. There were also major contributions to the z196 processor development from IBM labs in Austin, Texas, Germany, Israel and India,

The new zEnterprise technology is the result of an investment of more than $1.5 billion in IBM research and development in the zEnterprise line, as well as more than three years of collaboration with some of IBM's top clients around the world.

"We spent $1.5 billion in building this chip and the effort involved 5,000 people across six countries and 22 labs," Porell told eWEEK.

The mainframe processor makes use of IBM's patented embedded DRAM (eDRAM) technology, which allows IBM to place dense DRAM caches, or components, on the same chips as high-speed microprocessors, resulting in improved performance.

Meanwhile, from a performance standpoint, the zEnterprise System is the most powerful commercial IBM system ever, the company claimed in its press release. The core server in the zEnterprise System -- called zEnterprise 196 -- contains 96 of the world's fastest, most powerful microprocessors, capable of executing more than 50 billion instructions per second. That is roughly 17,000 times more instructions than the Model 91, the high-end of IBM's popular System/360 family, could execute in 1970.

"We had to do a lot of work on the hardware side, but we have middleware that has to exploit that hardware to handle new workloads, and we've seen increases of 40 percent and above in terms of efficiency and productivity," Porell said.

The new IBM microprocessor technology has new software to optimize performance of data-heavy workloads, including up to a 60 percent improvement in data intensive and Java workloads. Increased levels of system performance, in turn, increases software performance, which can reduce software license costs. The new system offers 60 percent more capacity than its predecessor, the System z10, and uses about the same amount of electricity.

Energy efficiencies were achieved through advances in microprocessor design, 45nm silicon technology, more efficient power conversion and distribution, as well as advanced sensors and cooling control firmware that monitors and makes adjustments based on environmental factors such as temperature and humidity levels and even air density.

The combination of zEnterprise chip speed, memory, system reliability, availability, security and storage architecture provide an optimal environment for managing the world's most demanding workloads.

For example, according to a study by Berg Insight, the number of active users of mobile banking and related financial services worldwide is forecasted to increase from 55 million in 2009 to 894 million in 2015.