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Dual-core processors at heart of new IBM mainframe

Posted: 16 May 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ibm? zseries 990? mainframe computer? mainframe pc? z990?

IBM Corp. rolled out its most powerful mainframe computer to date. The zSeries 990 is based on the first dual-core version of IBM's proprietary CMOS mainframe microprocessor.

The company claimed a 32-processor version of the z990 (shipping in October) will beat its competitors and deliver as much as three times the overall systems performance of IBM's current high-end mainframe.

"Our 32-way system will outperform the 64-way HP system announced recently, and it will do that for significantly lower costs," said Bill Zeitler, GM of IBM's systems division. "We've never brought out a mainframe with three times the performance [of the previous generation] before," he added.

IBM code-named the system T-Rex as a retort to competitors who claimed the system, originally code-named Galileo, was a dinosaur. Zeitler predicted the mainframe will see renewed growth in coming years as the most cost effective machine for consolidating multiple Linux applications.

IBM will ship this October a version of the z990 that can maintain 30 separate logical partitions, and a version in 2004 that will accommodate 60 partitions. Zeitler said 70 percent of the mainframe group's revenues come from users bringing new applications to the high-end computers and 17 percent of its revenues come from users running Linux.

The company has so far shipped about 4,000 of the zSeries systems, first launched in 2000. In the class of computers costing more than $250,000, market researchers said over the last two years IBM has gained 8 percent in market share while competitors Hewlett-Packard and Sun have each lost two percent, despite an overall market decline.

Inside the two-cabinet z990 are up to four processor subsystems. Each subsystem, which IBM calls a book, contains an array of 12 microprocessors made in IBM's CMOS9S SoI process. Eight of the 450 MIPS CPUs are operational with two serving for high availability back up and two as spares.

The CPUs along with dedicated I/O processors are mounted in a 93.98-by-93.98-by-19.05mm multichip module. The packaging technology is also used for IBM's midrange PowerPC-based servers.

Each z990 subsystem has up to 64GB RAM and 12 2GBps I/O connections. A fully configured system could have 32 active CPUs, 256GB RAM and 96GBps of peak I/O throughput, delivering 9,000 MIPS of performance. Using several separate cabinets, the z990 will be able to accommodate up to 512 I/O channels this year and 1,024 next year, said Erich Clementi, GM of the zSeries group.

As many as 32 of those systems can be clustered into one logical system using IBM's proprietary Parallel Sysplex interconnect which stretches up to 40km. Such a system could process 13 billion transactions a day, as many trades as the New York Stock Exchange handles in a week, said Clementi.

IBM plans to continue using the proprietary CMOS processor for its mainframes, rather than converging its mid-range and high-end systems on a single PowerPC-based design, said Pete McCaffrey, director of product marketing for the zSeries.

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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