IBM's eight-core Power7 chip to clock in at 4.0GHz

Will fuel 300,000-core, 10 petaflop giant


Exclusive IBM looks set to join the seriously multi-core set with the Power7 chip. Internal documents seen by The Register show Power7 with eight cores per processor and also some very, very large IBM boxes based on the chip.

The IBM documents have the eight-core Power7 being arranged in dual-chip modules. So, that's 16-cores per module. As IBM tells it, each core will show 32 gigaflops of performance, bringing each chip to 256 gigaflops. Just on the gigaflop basis, that makes Power7 twice as fast per core as today's dual-core Power6 chips, although the actual clock rate on the Power7 chips should be well below the 5.0GHz Power6 speed demon.

In fact, according to our documents, IBM will ship Power7 at 4.0GHz in 2010 on a 45nm process. We're also seeing four threads per core on the chip.

For some customers, IBM looks set to create 2U systems with four of the dual-chip modules, giving the server 64 cores of fun. These 2U systems will support up to 128GB of memory and hit 2 teraflops.

IBM has an architecture that will let supercomputing types combine these 2U boxes to form a massive unit with 1,024 cores, hitting 32 teraflops of performance with 2TB of memory.

And, er, if you are a seriously demanding type, boy, does IBM have the system for you.

The Giant

The Register has uncovered the first detailed specifications of the "Blue Waters" system IBM is building for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

If our documents are to be believed - and they're penned by an IBM executive - this system, funded by a $208m grant and meant to go up at the University of Illinois in 2011, will be the most massive machine ever created.

We've got documents showing IBM going after a 10 petaflop system (peak) comprised of 38,900 eight-core Power7 chips with each chip running at 4.0GHz. This monster will have an astonishing 620TB of memory and 5PB/s of memory bandwidth.

According to the documents, IBM will rely on a 1.30PB/s interconnect to link the systems and will feed them with 26PB of storage. As if that's not enough, IBM will offer an exabyte of archival storage. Why not?

This insane machine will be built out of more than 100 racks filled with servers and storage systems, taking up close to 4,400 sq. feet.

Er, if this stuff isn't sending shivers down the spines of Sun and Intel, then I don't know what will.

IBM has clearly decided to get a bit radical with Power7. This isn't the single-thread focused Power6. It's a true multi-core chip, which should stack up very, very well against Sun's 16-core rock and what will likely be an eight-core version of Itanium around in 2010.

And then IBM still has the Quasar project lurking in the background, where it's combining Power and Cell chips. Stand back, friends. Stand back. ®

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