IBMs Power5 Boasts Fourfold Performance Boost

The next-generation chip, due in systems next year, has the ability to bring logical partitioning into the sub-CPU level.

IBM will continue to plug its Power4+ processor into its pSeries line of Unix servers this year. But Big Blue officials already are looking at what will happen next year when it begins rolling out systems powered by the next-generation chip, the Power5.

The Armonk, N.Y., company already has put the 1.45GHz Power4+ into its midrange p630 and p650 servers. Starting this summer, IBM also will install it into the lower-end p610 and high-end p670 and p690 systems, according to Adalio Sanchez, general manager of IBMs eServer pSeries.

"Weve covered the midrange," Sanchez said in an interview with eWEEK. "Now were going to the extremes—the high end, the very high end and the low end."

At the same time, IBM is moving ahead with plans to start selling Power5-based systems in the first half of 2004, he said. The company already has a test system the size of the 32-way p690 running on a Power5 chip, Sanchez said.

"As we go into next year, well begin rolling out Power5 products across the entire product line," he said.

The PowerPC chips also will continue to be installed across the companys iSeries servers as well. However, there are no plans to move the PowerPC chips up into IBMs mainframe zSeries servers, which are powered by IBMs proprietary zSeries Multichip Module processors, Sanchez said.

The Power5 architecture—code-named Squadron—brings with it several key enhancements that will enable a fourfold performance improvement over systems using the Power4 chip, he said. Key among them is the ability to bring logical partitioning into the sub-CPU level, Sanchez said. Currently, a 32-way p690 can be partitioned into 16 virtual servers. With the Power5, a 32-way server will be able to be partitioned into at least 32 virtual servers, although IBM has yet to figure out exactly how many, he said.

Also, the dual-core Power5 will feature multithreading, or the ability of a chip to handle two threads simultaneously, and will offer dynamic power dissipation, in which it will automatically power up or down depending on the workload, Sanchez said.

The Power5, which will run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications, will run faster than 1.5GHz, although no exact frequency has been set yet.

Sanchezs comments come as IBM continues to battle Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc. in the Unix space. IBM also has come under fire from the SCO Group, which this month filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Big Blue for allegedly trying to undermine Unix in order to boost up Linux, which is the fastest-growing operating system. IBM officials have denied the charges.

Sanchez said IBM is committed to Unix—the company unveiled the latest generation of its Unix operating system, AIX 5L Version 5.2, in October. But he also said that there is some substitution of Unix for Linux, particularly in the low end. However, pSeries systems can run both Unix and Linux—even simultaneously in different partitions—and the companys Intel-based xSeries servers also run Linux, giving customers the necessary flexibility, Sanchez said.

"Customers want robust, enterprise-quality performance and the flexibility to run their existing Unix applications and new Linux apps," he said. "Theres a lot of Unix out there, and a growing demand for Linux."

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