IBM challenges Sun and HP with Power6

With double the performance of Power5, IBM believes its new processor will beat Sun and HP and be the 'last nail in the coffin' of Itanium

IBM today launched its Power6 processor, which the company said represented a new challenge to Sun and HP and a potential coup de grâce to Intel's Itanium processor.

The new processor is available from Monday in two-, four-, eight- and 16-core versions running at 4.7GHz, the company said, and will do so while using the same amount of electricity per core as the Power5. The processors will be used in IBM's System p Unix-based server series.

At the worldwide launch of the new processor, which was held in London, the company released details of the processor's performance that showed it beat industry standard benchmarks, such as TPCC and even Java benchmarks, typically by a factor of two to three.

"This is a grand slam of benchmarks," said IBM's general manager for System p, Ross Mauri. While the benchmarks cover the Power6, "we can beat them today" with Power5, said Mauri.

A dual-core Power6 machine will cost from $16,000. UK and Euro pricing has not yet been fixed.

One of IBM's target markets for Power6-equipped p Series machines is system consolidation. According to Mauri, using Power6 enables the company to offer systems that can consolidate up to 30 Sun Fire servers into one three-rack of Power6 machines. "We can do this and offer much more memory, 48GB per core, while Sun offers 8GB," said Mauri.

To help with performance, the Power6 chip has a total cache size of 8MB per chip, four times large than the Power5 chip, the company said.

IBM is also upgrading its virtualisation and other software, said Mauri. "AIX 6 is coming in November and there will be an open beta available in July."

Other improvements in the software allow for companies to have planned outages that offer no disruption and for these to be changed on-the-fly. The system is flexible enough to allow a system to be swapped between different virtual processes on different systems at any time, Mauri said.

On power saving, the Power6 contains all the improvements introduced by IBM earlier this month.

The company says it will continue to offer energy-saving initiatives that can be traded off against performance, IBM said. By maintaining power usage in the Power6, companies can "use the new processor to either increase their performance by 100 percent or cut their power consumption virtually in half", IBM said.

The memory bandwidth in the Power6 has also been improved to 30GB per second, the company said. "This means you can download the entire iTunes catalogue in about 60 seconds — 30 times faster than HP's Itanium," the company said in a statement.