IBM POWER7 thumbs nose at Intel Itanium 9300/Tukwila

IBM announced its new POWER7 CPUs and servers and Intel announced the new Itanium 9300 series (formerly 'Tukwila'). Odd that they should both be announced on the same day, eh? In IT Blogwatch, bloggers watch them fight it out.

By Richi Jennings. February 10, 2010.

Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Cpt. Dave lands an Airbus...
Timothy Prickett-Morgan eyes IBM:

IBM says that with the Power7 design, it has the right balance of cores, threads, and clock speeds ... to tackle the kinds of workloads that like multithreading ... and those that like clock speeds and cache memory and that need to move data through the system quickly.
With Intel's quad-core "Tukwila" Itanium running late and Sun Microsystems' 16-core "Rock" UltraSparc-RK chip barely on life support ... IBM has crammed more and more transistors onto the chips, pulling more and more features off the motherboard into the chip. ... IBM is shrinking down the chip with to 45 nanometer copper/SOI processes and allowing it to crunch 1.2 billion transistors onto the die.

Dean Takahashi notes Intel's spoiler:

Intel  announced its Itanium 9300 series microprocessor today, a high-end supercomputing chip with 2 billion transistors. ... Intel will be able to put eight microprocessors together in a single server system. Each microprocessor has four cores. ... Hence, a system can be built with 32 computing cores.
Tukwila is years late and has been ridiculed for a long time. But Intel argues that this chip will be more attractive to the big corporations and scientists that it is aimed at. ... The new Itanium chip uses the same chip sets, QuickPath interconnection, and other common infrastructure as the Xeon chips. ... IBM’s systems will have as many as 64 cores. The two rivals will go head to head in battles to get their chips and systems inside mission critical computers, such as those that control stock markets.

Andy Greenberg ponders where Oracle/Sun is in all this:

Oracle and IBM's knife-fight over high-end enterprise hardware is about to begin. ... Big Blue is initially only releasing its mid-range Power7 servers ... But IBM says that even the mid-range Power7 ... will squeeze 64 processing cores into each server ... doubling the speed of each of those cores while quadrupling their power efficiency.
[IBM] says the servers will be aimed at its "smart infrastructure" customers--those doing real-time analysis of vast amounts of data to optimize complex systems like traffic or water and electricity distribution. ... The servers IBM is initially releasing start at $30,000 in their simplest configuration and range up to $1 million.

Brooke Crothers details the new big blue boxes:

The new Power7 systems include:
  • IBM Power 780: a new category of scalable, high-end servers, featuring an advanced modular design with up to 64 Power7 cores.
  • IBM Power 770: a midrange system with up to 64 Power7 cores, featuring higher performance per core than Power6 processors and using up to 70 percent less energy for the same number of cores as Power6 processors.
  • IBM Power 755: a high-performance computing cluster node with 32 Power7 cores.
Rivals include Hewlett-Packard servers based on Intel's Xeon and "Tukwila" Itanium processors and servers from Sun Microsystems.

But which is better? The linux geek compares and contrasts:

Itanium is superscalar to an extent that POWER doesn't come close to, with each core being able to execute up to six instructions per cycle. While its possible that POWER7 is faster, its also more expensive to get a reasonable configuration and the performance difference between the two is not ... clear-cut.

Tycho (no, not that one) talks DFP:

I ... imagine that these newer POWER7 processors carry over the decimal floating point units present in the POWER6. Yes, floating point units that operate in base-10 as opposed to base-2. Not necessarily of much value for scientific purposes, but great for preserving accuracy in financial calculations. One gets to avoid the base-10 to base-2 conversion and the conversion back that can severely hurt accuracy with only a binary floating point unit. One also gets a nice speed up by doing decimal math in hardware as opposed to the other option of software decimal math.

But who cares about such high-end stuff? This Anonymous Coward knows:

The high end server market is becoming smaller and smaller as time goes on but in reality there's still a huge backbone of legacy applications that require the sort of processing throughput only a single whopping great server can provide. The kind of applications that draw $150,000 3 month contracts for developers.

And another AC puts it more bluntly:

Forget what you know about virtualization from xen and VMWare. The POWER hypervisor lets you add (or remove) ram, buses, and processors from a running server. You can even set the memory and cpu to pull from a shared pool (with set priorities and limits). The internal 10Gb network doesn't hurt either.
POWER is made by people who understand scaling. Commodity boxes are made for people who like big numbers printed on the side of the box.

So what's your take?
Get involved: leave a comment.

And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

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