IBM details 5.2GHz processor

August 26, 2010 // 10:42 a.m.

Tags: #52ghz #high-performance-computing #ibm #ibm-mainframe #ibm-z196 #ibm-z-series #lga #mainframe #supercomputer #z196

IBM has released details of what it claims is the fastest single CPU in the world, which clocks in at 5.2GHz - but Intel et al needn't worry just yet, as the company isn't exactly aiming for mass-market adoption.

The Z196, which PC Magazine reports was announced by IBM at the Hot Chip conference earlier this week, is designed for use in the company's Z-series mainframes - which tend to cost several hundred thousand pounds and are the playthings of major government departments and oil companies, rather than the sort of thing on which you'll be installing Crysis.

The processor is a CISC design with RISC elements based on a 45nm PD SOI process, and features a 64KB L1 instruction cache, a 128KB L1 data cache, and 1.5MB L2 cache per core alongside a shared 24MB L3 eDRAM cache - and the option to configure a 196MB shared L4 cache, too. Interestingly, IBM has also fitted a pair of cryptographic co-processors to the design, which allows the Z196 carry out encryption and decryption operations in hardware without loading the main cores.

The processors are designed to be fitted to a Multi-Chip Module, or MCM, along with a storage control chip, which allows for communication between modules - with each module featuring six Z196 processors and up to 24 active processing cores. As you can fit four such modules to each mainframe, it's unlikely that anyone will be complaining about the lack of power available.

Well, unless we're talking mains power: each individual MCM - and there can be four in each system, remember - is rated to draw around 1.8KW at full load, meaning a top-end mainframe based around the Z196 could draw up to 7.2KW just for the processors.

In short, yes, IBM has the processor performance crown - but unless you're seriously well connected, you're probably never going to get to play with one.

Are you pleased to see that IBM can still give Intel a run for its money in the HPC stakes, or is any processor that has such a small target market by definition a failure - no matter how well it performs? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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