IBM carves out processor path

IBM is attracting a lot of attention for its continued advancement of the Power processor with a near $US3 billion investment in a new fabrication facility which microelectronics distinguished engineer John Cohn said is “really cranking".

“When released, the 65nm Power 6 will be the most powerful, sophisticated processor ever built,” Cohn said. “No one in the industry knows when the post-silicon era will begin and we have a path of innovation for the foreseeable future.”

Cohn said IBM’s next supercomputer, Blue Gene, will be more than 100Teraflops and should surpass the current leader this year.

“Our major development tools run on Linux and it’s great to develop the hardware and software together,” he said. “In chip development we are rapidly changing to Linux.”

IBM is committed to Linux across all its hardware product line, according to master inventor at IBM's Linux technology centre, Sandra Johnson.

"We are focusing on our enterprise hardware and middleware strategy for the foreseeable future," she said. Both Cohn and Williams were participating in an IBM innovation tour at Sydney University last month.

“We did performance optimisations for kernel 2.4 that made it into 2.6, for example, with the networking and I/O subsystem," she said. Johnson said IBM is also working to bring its entire software portfolio to Linux, including the Lotus Notes client, indicating that it is “just a matter of time” before a native version is available.

The panel of five innovators on the IBM tour agreed the high technology road to bleeding-edge development is all about mentoring.

IBM is renowned for a highly successful mentoring program and IBM distinguished engineer and master inventor Anthony Martinez said it is critical to harness "wacky ideas."

IBM fellow C. Mohan said a mentor is typically someone that has gone through converting ideas into reality.

“A lot of ideas are driven by curiosity, not business, and there are a lot of theoreticians in computer science," Mohan said.

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