IBM Unveils Chip Roadmap to Support EServers

IBM at the Microprocessor Forum 2000 Tuesday unveiled the latest version of its chip roadmap, designed to complement last week's release of the vendor's enterprise-class eServers.

IBM executives highlighted the company's Blue Flame and Power 4 chips designed for its high-end zSeries and Unix-based pSeries servers, respectively. In keeping with the release of its eServer line last week, IBM assured that the technology related to the two chips remains right on schedule.

For the Blue Flame product, IBM dedicated 20 percent of the chip area to RAS (reliability availability serviceability) - the ability of a computer system to react to failures and conduct maintenance without shutting down. Joel Tendler, program director of technology assessment in the enterprise systems group at IBM, said in an interview that the RAS area on Blue Flame exceeds that in competitors' processors by a significant margin and stands as one of the product's main strengths.

"In the past, other companies had RAS areas in the single digits," he said.

Tendler also said that the additional space allows IBM to focus not only on finding errors in systems but also to gather enough information to defend against future mistakes.

"You first have to detect the error and once you have done that you need to take actions to protect against errors in the future," he said.

In the zSeries 900 mainframe, IBM will use the Blue Flame chip to complement related technology and offer users 64-bit addressing capability. With the release last week of its eServer line, which comprises both the zSeries and pSeries machines, IBM also announced its 64-bit operating system, the z/OS. Blue Flame, along with the 64-bit operating system, allow the server to execute 21-bit, 32-bit, and 64-bit applications concurrently.

Mark Papermaster, director of power microprocessor development for the IBM server group, said in an interview that the Power4 chip also remains on schedule for its release in pSeries systems (RS/6000 and AS/400) in early 2001. With the Power4, IBM looks to bring mainframe-level computing to the Unix market, Papermaster said. IBM used its SOI (silicon on insulator) technology and copper technology -- as opposed to more traditional aluminium -- for the wires in the chip to increase circuit speeds with lower power consumption. Papermaster also stressed that the same RAS focus for Blue Flame is being applied to the Power4 chip.

"We are right on track with Power4," he said.

IBM also addressed recent attacks made by Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., saying that Big Blue cannot keep up with the enterprise in the Internet era. Larry Ellison, chairman and chief executive officer at Oracle, recently made a one million dollar challenge, saying that Oracle could triple the performance of any Web site using IBM's back-end technology.

"Both Sun and Oracle are very boisterous in their marketing efforts," Papermaster said.

He claimed that IBM's place in the enterprise remains strong and is confirmed by customer demand.

"IBM will speak with their actions and the performance they can provide with their customers," he said.

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