A peek at faster Power6, Cell chips

in General Discussion edited January 2014
Judging by details revealed in a chip conference agenda, the clock frequency race isn't over yet.

IBM's Power6 processor will be able to exceed 5 gigahertz in a high-performance mode, and the second-generation Cell Broadband Engine processor from IBM, Sony and Toshiba will run at 6GHz, according to the program for the International Solid State Circuits Conference that begins February 11 in San Francisco.

Chipmakers have run into problems increasing chip clock speed--essentially an electronic heartbeat that synchronizes operations in a processor--because higher frequencies have led to unmanageable power consumption and waste heat.

To compensate, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices have turned instead to the addition of multiple processing cores on each slice of silicon. That's effective when computers are juggling numerous tasks at the same time, but increasing the clock speed means an individual task can run faster.

The first-generation Cell Broadband Engine chip, co-developed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba, has just appeared in Sony's PlayStation 3 game console and can run at 4GHz. The second-generation chip will run at 6GHz, according to the ISSCC program. In addition, the new chip will have a dual power supply that increases memory performance--a major bottleneck in computer designs today.

For servers, IBM has said its Power6 processor, due to ship in servers in 2007, will run between 4GHz and 5GHz. But in the ISSCC program, Big Blue said the chip's clock will tick at a rate "over 5GHz in high-performance applications." In addition, the chip "consumes under 100 watts in power-sensitive applications," a power range comparable to mainstream 95-watt AMD Opteron chips and 80-watt Intel Xeon chips.

Power6 has 700 million transistors and measures 341 square millimeters, according to the program. The smaller that a chip's surface area is, the more that can be carved out of a single silicon wafer, reducing per-chip manufacturing costs and therefore making a computer more competitive. Power6, like the second-generation Cell, is built with a manufacturing process with 65-nanometer circuitry elements, letting more electronics be squeezed onto a given surface area.

Intel isn't standing idly by, though. In September, Intel showed a glimpse of a prototype chip with 80 cores that can perform a trillion mathematical calculations per second. At ISSCC, the company will shed more details on the design, including an updated speed measurement of 1.28 trillion calculations per second.

The chip measures 275 square millimeters--smaller than the 303-square-millimeter area indicated in September--and runs at 4GHz, according to the program. The chip, which Intel describes as a "network-on-chip architecture," has 100 million transistors and dissipates 98 watts of waste heat. Intel called each core a tile and said each has network switch features to route packets of data.

"It was designed as a research tool to test interconnect strategies for many-core processors," Intel spokeswoman Erica Fields said. Research goals for the project included testing new chip design methods and investigating "how to move terabytes of data rapidly between cores on-chip and between the cores and memory." She added that the prototype can't run conventional software for Intel chips.http://news.com.com/A+peek+at+faster...?tag=nefd.lede

pretty cool....or I should probably say possibly HOT, coming from the IBM side of things... it a damn shame they couldnt provide Apple with cooler chips in the end.


  • Reply 1 of 4
    80 cores, huh? Oh, Steve... we're waiting!
  • Reply 2 of 4
    slewisslewis Posts: 2,080member
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

    80 cores, huh? Oh, Steve... we're waiting!

    What, you want him to stick 2 of those in the Mac Pro and call it a... Mac Pro x160 or something?

  • Reply 3 of 4
    Cool, I bet the telecom industry is salivating.

    Furthermore, the "megahertz wars" might get a little bit more wind in it's proverbial sail if the new "zero-current" transistor architecture makes it past the research stage (which it currently is in).
  • Reply 4 of 4
    Originally Posted by hypoluxa View Post

    pretty cool....or I should probably say possibly HOT, coming from the IBM side of things... it a damn shame they couldnt provide Apple with cooler chips in the end.

    Impressive stuff. But here's a tip, IBM, PAY FOR YOUR OWN FU#(KING R&D. It's cool coming up with all this wonderful PowerPC stuff, but guess what, don't expect Apple to foot a ton of the R&D bill. Intel did their *OWN* research and now commercially (ie. in large huge numbers of units) deliver great chips at low power/heat with high performance at low cost. IBM and Power consortium and all, respectz, but sorry, glad Steve pulled the plug and not a moment too soon. He could have pulled the plug earlier, if he was more sure about the right Intel transition building blocks in place.
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