IBM plans server overhaul

IBM plans major technology upgrades to its RS/6000 server line in 1997 including 8-processor systems based on the long-overdue PowerPC 620 processor.

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
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IBM (IBM) is planning for the first time to use the 64-bit PowerPC 620 processor in a server line, while it also eyes the Apache processor and 630 PowerPC processors for future RS/6000 computers.

IBM is planning major technology upgrades to its RS/6000 server line in 1997 including 8-processor systems running a PowerPC 620 processor, an Apache processor-based system, and, further down the road, PowerPC 630 systems, according to Jim Hynes, a product manager in the RS/6000 group.

The PowerPC 64-bit 620 processor is a long-overdue chip that was almost junked last year since it did not offer a compelling performance improvement over the 604 processor.

But IBM has fixed the chip, said Hynes. In conjunction with the rollout of 620 upgrade cards and 620 systems, IBM will also ship the 64-bit version of its AIX operating system as well as middleware from Oracle and SAP, he added.

The product plans call for a PowerPC 620-based upgrade card for PowerPC-604-based R and J RS/6000 model systems in the second half of 1997. Complete 620 systems will also be offered.

The R and J models will scale to 8-processor symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) configurations with support for 4GB of memory and will run applications at over twice the performance of the current 8-way Model R40 SMP systems based on the 604 PowerPC processor.

In the same time frame, IBM is planning a top-of-the-line 12-processor, rack-mounted SMP server offering three times the performance of the 8-way Model R40. This system will be powered by the IBM Apache processor. This Apache-based system will also offer support for high-performance PCI I/O devices with a massive 5.3GB/second internal bandwidth.

The Apache processor is based on the PowerPC processor architecture but was designed by an IBM team in Rochester, New York. The 620, on the other hand, was a joint project between IBM and Motorola, Hynes said. In the long run, the Apache processor is expected to offer more performance at the system level than the 620, Hynes added.

The next-generation 630 PowerPC processor is targeted at technical workstations and "technical" servers, said Hynes. It will offer very high floating point performance for scientific and engineering applications, he added. It is due in 1998.

Also, in the first half of 1997, IBM will offer upgrades from the 604 PowerPC microprocessor to the 604e, which should improve performance by 50 percent on the R and J models, and 35 percent on the G models RS/6000 models, IBM said.