updated 03:50 pm EDT, Mon May 21, 2007
New IBM CPU pushes 5GHz
In a bid to regain some lost ground to chip making industry-leaders Intel and AMD, IBM has announced that its dual-core POWER6 microprocessor -- due to ship next month -- will top out at 4.7GHz, but draws about the same amount of power as the company's previous generation processors. The new processors, designed for high-end servers, push IBM to the forefront of performance computing: while others have focused on multiple cores, IBM is offering megahertz performance in a dual-core chip. According to the company, the new processor boasts bandwidth of 300GB per second, offering the ability to "download the entire iTunes catalog in about 60 seconds - 30 times faster than HP's Itanium."
In shipping the new chip, IBM is hoping to buck the trend of decreasing or stagnant clock-speed in favor of more cores, and instead show that it can deliver more cycles per core while still conserving power.
Although the industry-leading performance of the new chips will lead some Mac users to lament the move to the Intel-based architecture, the new chips are not drop-in replacements for the legacy PowerPC chips produced by both Motorola and IBM. Those chips were used in legacy Macs since the mid-90s, but were dropped in favor Intel's more power-efficient Core architecture and due to future performance concerns. Since then, Intel has revved its Core-based chips twice and delivered quad-core Xeon chips for Apple's workstations.
While the PowerPC processor is based largely on the POWER architecture, and there is a high degree of compatibility between the two chip lines (POWER chips contain the a superset of the PowerPC instructions), PowerPC chips with specs matching those of their POWER counterparts generally lag significantly. Pricing is also a factor. Although IBM hasn't yet released exact details on the POWER6's price, IBM's high-end servers will purportedly fetch more than $50,000 at lauch.