IBM details forthcoming Power4 chip for servers

IBM details forthcoming Power4 chip for servers

IBM is readying a new generation of chips intended to handle the ever-expanding server loads created by Internet use and electronic-commerce demands.

The company unveiled plans for the chip, called Power4, on Tuesday at the Microprocessor Forum in San Jose.

IBM's intention is to create a generation of chips that makes the whole computer system work faster, focusing particularly on memory bandwidth, rather than just concentrating on ramping up the speed of the processor core alone, the company said in a statement.

IBM, however, did not disclose when Power4 would be available or its pricing.

Aimed at high-end servers, each Power4 chip will include two 1GHz processor cores as well as Level 2 cache memory, and will boast more than a mile of copper wiring and 170 million transistors, IBM said.

The bandwidth capacity of the bus between second-level cache and the microprocessors is more than 100GB per second, or equal to relaying 20 full-length movies in one second, IBM said.

Featuring a seven-layer metal design, the Power4 will be made at the IBM Microelectronics fabrication plant in Vermont, using 0.18 micron process technology. The chips will be housed in glass ceramic packaging that allows for up to eight processors to fit into a palm-sized unit, IBM claimed.

The chip uses both copper and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technologies developed by IBM Microelectronics. Copper leads to better performance because it can handle a higher current for a longer time and allows for more transistors on a chip, IBM said. SOI boosts performance and decreases power consumption.

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