IBM launches Power7 chip, systems

Big Blue's powerful new processor for servers integrates eight processing cores in one chip package, with each core capable of executing four tasks.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

IBM on Monday is launching its long-anticipated Power7 processor and systems based on the chip.

IBM Power7 chip
IBM Power7 chip IBM

The processor is a big step for IBM, integrating eight processing cores--four times the number of cores in the prior-generation Power6--in one chip package, with each core capable of executing four tasks--called "threads"--turning an individual chip into a virtual 32-core processor. As a yardstick, Intel's high-end Xeon processors--systems that Power7 will compete with--typically have two threads per processing core and contain four cores.

Blg Blue has already tipped its hand on the Power7 chip in discussions about its upcoming Blue Water supercomputer.

Power7 fuses the flagship Power chip design with key technology from a separate "Cell" processor--the latter was part of IBM's Roadrunner supercomputer system at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. "We took some of that genetic material from the Cell program--ways to do floating point (calculations)--and embedded that right into the Power7 core," Bradley McCredie, an IBM Fellow in the Systems and Technology Group, told CNET last year.

Rivals include Hewlett-Packard servers based on Intel's Xeon and "Tukwila" Itanium processors and servers from Sun Microsystems.

New Power7 systems

The new Power7 systems include:

  • IBM Power 780: a new category of scalable, high-end servers, featuring an advanced modular design with up to 64 Power7 cores.
  • IBM Power 770: a midrange system with up to 64 Power7 cores, featuring higher performance per core than Power6 processors and using up to 70 percent less energy for the same number of cores as Power6 processors.
  • IBM Power 755: a high-performance computing cluster node with 32 Power7 cores.

IBM is touting the Power7's ability to manage millions of transactions in real time--necessary for applications such as smart electrical grids. IBM said electric utilities can move from processing less than one million meter reads per day, in a traditional grid for example, to more than 85 million reads per day in a smart grid.

eMeter, a leading maker of software that runs e-grids, ran a successful benchmark on IBM Power6 systems for more than 20 million smart meters. "Combining eMeter and IBM's Power7 we are confident we can hit much higher numbers to meet their needs," Scott Smith, eMeter client business manager, said in a statement.