Monday, 3 March 2008

IBM launches its zX machine

Last week IBM announced its long-awaited z10 mainframe. And it really looks like a good one.

It’s more powerful than the z9 – each box can be fitted with up to 64 purpose-built quad-core processors, so it’s 50 percent faster, delivers up to 100 percent better performance for CPU-intensive jobs, and provides 70 percent more capacity than a z9.

Internal bandwidth has doubled – support for Infiniband means support for 6GB per second (up from 2.7GB per second).

Is it "green"? IBM said that a single System z10 is the equivalent of nearly 1,500 x86 distributed servers. They also suggested it had an 85 percent smaller footprint, and 85 percent lower energy costs. In addition, IBM said that the system allows the consolidation of x86 software licences at up to a 30:1 ratio. Without knowing exactly how much this processor will really cost to buy (I mean, who pays list prices?) it’s difficult to calculate whether there is a saving over 1,500 x86 servers, and if so how much.

Is it modern? Again, IBM suggests users could run, for example, SAP on Linux with DB2 on z/OS all in one box. As shown towards the end of 2007, IBM is working with Sun to bring Solaris to the z10.

Looking at it in more detail, there’s a 991 million transistor processor, which is the quad-core processor, and it comes with 3MB of L2 cache per core. How fast is it? IBM reckons the chip can operate in excess of 4.4GHz. Also available is a separate, dedicated "service" processor, which adds 24MB of L3 cache, which can be shared by all the processor cores.

The top-end z10 processors use five quad-core die packages and two service cores, which if you do the sums comes to 20 cores at 4.4GHz, plus 60MB of L2 cache, plus 48MB of shared L3 cache on a single processor.


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