IBM to Ship New Mainframe Microprocessor: 'The World's Fastest'

IBM announced it has developed what it calls the world's fastest computer chip - a microprocessor for a new version of the IBM mainframe that begins shipping to customers on September 10th.

Called the zEnterprise System, the technology is the result of an investment of more than $1.5 billion in IBM research and development, the company says. From a performance standpoint, the zEnterprise System is the most powerful commercial IBM system ever, the vendor also says.

The core server in the zEnterprise System - called zEnterprise 196 - contains 96 microprocessors capable of executing more than 50 billion instructions per second. That's roughly 17,000 times more instructions than the Model 91, the high-end of IBM's popular System/360 family, could execute in 1970.

The z196 processor is a four-core chip that contains 1.4 billion transistors on a 512-square millimeter (mm) surface. 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, Tex., Germany, Israel and India.

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

This 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.

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.

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