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IBM sends Power5+ downstream

With four cores

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IBM last week took care of its low-end System P Unix gear by outfitting the systems with new Power5+ chips and multi-core modules.

Customers will now find a 2.1GHz version of Power5+ available across IBM's entire Unix system line. Back in July, IBM started offering the same 2.1GHz chip with its high-end Unix boxes - the p5 590 and 595. Overall, the Power5 upgrades have been far from inspirational with IBM performing such modest clock rate tweaks that the likes of Intel and Sun Microsystems have been able to gain ground on Power.

IBM, however, does have a bit of razzle-dazzle left with the Power5+.

The same systems that received the faster chip have also been prepped to handle IBM's four-core module. IBM creates the quad-core system via a bit of engineering savvy where it combines a pair of dual-core Power5+ chips. HP was forced to do something similar with Itanium before the new dual-core "Montecito" chip arrived.

The chips in the quad-core module don't run at full speed. IBM has clocked the Power5+ cores down to 1.65GHz.

Customers need to test out the dual-core and four-core systems to find out where their various software packages will run best. In general, you can expect the four-core boxes to handle jobs such as transaction processing well. Best to put apps that need high single thread performance on the 2.1GHz kit.

IBM claims that the module gives it "the first (systems) in the industry with four cores per socket," which is true to a degree. Big Blue has used the four-core module kludge since October of 2005. Sun, however, sells four-, six- and eight-core versions of its UltraSPARC T1 chips with all the cores on a single piece of silcon. Those systems, announced in November of 2005, play in the same Unix space as IBM's gear.

To complement the new chips, IBM has released four new p5 boxes.

You'll now find the 1U, single-socket p5 505, the 2U, single-socket p5 510 and the 4U, single-socket p5 520. In addition, IBM has started selling the two-socket p5 550. All of the servers are available in pre-built Express configurations that sell for a bit less than the more configurable, standard boxes.

You can compare and contrast the new models here. ®

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