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IBM details new PowerPC chips

What's novel about one chip is that each of its two 64-bit cores has its own dedicated 1MB of level-two cache memory.

IBM has released details about two new PowerPC chips designed for entry-level servers and PCs.

The PowerPC 970MP is a dual-core version of the PowerPC 970FX, which is commonly found in Macintosh computers running G5 processors. IBM also said it will release a low-power version of the PowerPC 970FX.

Prices were not disclosed, and it wasn't immediately clear when the two new chips would be available, but executives described the processors at a company event in Tokyo on Thursday.

What's novel about the PowerPC 970MP's design is that each of the two 64-bit cores has its own dedicated 1MB of level-two cache memory. That means that either side of the chip can be powered down to a state IBM calls "doze" while the other core continues to work. The technique helps save power and extends the life of the computer, IBM said.

The chip will be available in speeds ranging from 1.4GHz to 2.5GHz.

A representative for Apple Computer, maker of the Mac, declined to comment on whether the company would use--or had considered using--the PowerPC 970MP in any of its products. Apple said recently that it's ending its manufacturing partnership with IBM in favor of future development with Intel.

The low-power version of its PowerPC 970FX is meant for use in printers and digital video recorders. The processor is designed to run at speeds of up to 2.7GHz, yet operate at less than 20 watts.

IBM said it plans to offer the new processors in a variety of ways: in clusters of servers such as its Blue Gene/L super computer, for example, as well as in high-performance storage devices, single-board computers and networking products.

Both processor announcements are tied to IBM's promotion of its Power Architecture technology, which the company has been trying to position as an alternative to x86-based systems made by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

With that in mind, IBM also announced the launch of its OpenPower Project, an online forum for IT professionals and developers within the Linux community that will get access to tools and other reference software from IBM.

Developers and enthusiasts that sign up will be able to test their software on Power5-based OpenPower servers, IBM said.