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IBM Power5+ launch coming next week

Sun Microsystems debuted its UltraSparc IV+ servers last week, but IBM will counter that launch by announcing Unix servers with the new Power5+ processor next week, sources familiar with the plans said.

Big Blue will tout the latest generation of its Unix servers on Oct. 4, refreshing its pSeries line with the new processor and a new product family name. The Power5+ is expected to arrive at a clock speed of 1.9GHz, the same as the top speed of its predecessor, the Power5.

Following in the nomenclature footsteps of the new z9 mainframe, the new Power-based machines will be called IBM System p5 instead of the current pSeries moniker, the sources said. Though IBM is expected to announce a host of new systems, the top-end model with 32 dual-core processors isn't on the list.

The Power5+ is built with a manufacturing process with 90-nanometer features, compared to the 130-nanometer process used for the current Power5. That permits more circuitry to be added for features such as more high-speed cache memory or encryption accelerators

Next up in the high-end server market will be Hewlett-Packard's use of Intel's "Montecito," the first dual-core Itanium processor, which is due by the end of the year and is expected to double performance over its predecessor.

The three companies, which together dominate the Unix server market, have differing processor and operating system strategies. Sun designs its own chips and Solaris operating system, but next year also will begin selling systems using the Sparc64 VI "Olympus" processor designed by Fujitsu. IBM designs its own processors, but its servers run Linux and its i5/OS in addition to the company's AIX version of Unix. And HP uses Intel's chips, which means the servers can run Linux and Windows as well as the HP-UX version of Unix.