IBM is ready to ship the fastest microprocessor

IBM announced that new zEnterprise systems, powered by the world's fastest microprocessor, will start shipping September 10. The systems are offered in five configurations, M15, M32, M49, M66, and M80, that differ by the number of available processor cores and supported memory size. In the maximum configuration, the top model M80 can accommodate 96 processor cores, or 24 z196 CPUs, and support up to 3 TB of memory. Not all processor cores are used for customer applications. For instance, in the M80 system with 96 processor cores, only 80 of them can be configured by customer, while 2 cores are reserved as spares and 14 cores are used as system assist processors.

Internally the z196 CPU core is a superscalar processor with out-of-order instruction execution, that can execute up to 5 instructions per cycle. The z196 CPU packs four cores, integrates memory controller, GX I/O bus, and two coprocessors on a chip. Each co-processor is shared by two cores, and includes special instructions to handle data encryption and compression. Each z196 core runs at 5.2 GHz, and has its own dedicated L1 and L2 caches. Total size of the L1 cache is 192 KB per core , and it allocates 64 KB for instructions and 128 KB for data caching. The size of dedicated L2 cache is 1.5 MB per core. The microprocessor integrates two 12 MB L3 caches, or 24 MB in total. The L3 cache is shared by all 4 cores. The CPU is manufactured using 0.045 micron CMOS 12s technology, that makes the most of silicon-on insulator (SOI) and 13-layer copper interconnect technologies. Each processor has 1.4 billion transistors.

The z196 microprocessor is packaged differently from consumer x86 processors. IBM uses Multi-Chip Module (MCM) technique to pack 6 processors and two Storage Control (SC) chips on a single module. Some processors in the module may have the forth core disabled, therefore the total number of cores per MCM varies from 20 to 24. Each SC chip contains huge 96 MB level 4 cache, thus the MCM module has 192 MB L4 cache shared by all cores. The size of MCM module is 3.78" x 3.78", or 96mm x 96mm. The MCM has 7356 LGA-type connectors, and is housed in a so-called "book". Besides the MCM, the book includes from 60 GB to 960 GB of memory, DCA power supplies and I/O connectors. One zEnterprise system can have from 1 to 4 of such books. To cool down the book, zEnterprise system uses air cooling, but IBM also offers water cooling as an option.

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