IBM Unveils Dual-Core PowerPC Processor

IBM last week unveiled details about a dual-core version of its PowerPC processor at the Power Everywhere forum in Tokyo. Big Blue is targeting entry-level servers, clustered environments and the embedded market with its new product.

The PowerPC 970MP is a dual-core version of IBM’s PowerPC 970FX. It is a 64-bit, symmetric multiprocessing (SMP)-capable system with ranges from 1.4 to 2.5 GHz. The microprocessor also provides power-saving features that system architects can use to dynamically control the system power.

Brian Matus, vice president of market research for IC Insights, told TechNewsWorld that dual-core technology is the logical way to improve performance and get more throughput out of microprocessing configurations.

Dual-core processors don’t add much silicon area, so the chips are still relatively compact and don’t become an abnormality on the circuit board.

“Dual-core processors are the way chips are evolving,” Matus said. “It helps in two ways. First, it keeps the cost down because the chip is smaller and the footprint of the package is smaller within the system. Second, it boosts performance.”

Power-Saving Features

Each of the two 64-bit PowerPC 970MP cores has its own dedicated 1 MB L2 cache, which more than doubles the performance of the PowerPC 970FX. IBM said the design provides clients with a wide range of performance and power operating points to match system processing needs.

For example, the frequency and voltage of both cores can be scaled downward to reduce the power during periods of reduced workload. For further power savings, each core can be independently placed in a power-saving state called “doze,” while the other core continues operation. In addition, one of the cores can be completely de-powered during periods of less stringent performance requirements.

Looking to Laptops

Matus said there is so much potential power with the dual-core set up, customers need to be able to put it on standby when they are not using its full capacity. Intel and AMD, he said, offer similar features.

“Without these power-saving features, dual-core processors would be somewhat of a drain on your system,” he said. “You would also be using power when you don’t need it. When dual-core processors work their way down to the desktop or laptop environments, it would be critical to have power savings.”

Low-Power Extensions

IBM also announced new low-power extensions to its PowerPC 970FX offering. The company is targeting customers who want a 64-bit processor featuring a sub-20 Watt power envelope and SMP.

The new offering provides operating power of 13W at 1.4 GHz and 16W at 1.6 GHz under typical workloads. Like the 970MP, this microprocessor also provides power-saving features that system architects can use to dynamically control the system power.

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