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IBM Introduces PowerPC 970 Servers, Touts 970 As "Fastest PowerPC So Far"

IBM Introduces PowerPC 970 Servers, Touts 970 As "Fastest PowerPC So Far"

by , 1:00 PM EST, February 27th, 2003

Many have hoped that Apple will move the PowerMac line to the PowerPC 970, a new 64-bit PowerPC processor being developed by IBM. With Motorola lagging behind in G4 development, and the G5 being nowhere in sight, many have hoped that Apple could turn to IBM's 970 line to erase the performance gap between Intel/AMD and Apple's G4-based products. This suggestion has been given more power by the fact that IBM has officially included AltiVec support in the 970, a technology crucial to many of Apple's developers.

Today, IBM announced the first products to use the 970 -- the PowerPC Blade -- at Europe's CeBit conference. The PowerPC Blade will be added to IBM's BladeCenter product line, a line of servers powered by Intel processors. The company is touting the PowerPC Blade as "superior to Intel Blades for certain applications in the High Performance Computing Sector," and goes on to offer some details on the PowerPC 970 itself. Included in those details is a speed range for the processor of 1.8 GHz to 2.5 GHz, higher than previous announcements from the company. From the company's press release:

The new IBM PowerPC 970 is the heart of the PowerPC Blade. It is based on the 64-Bit Power 4 architecture which is also used in the processors of the IBM eServer pSeries. The 64-bit microprozessor

  • Offers full symmetrical multi-processing
  • Has a high reliability (with parity L1, ECC L2 and parity checked system bus)
  • Is manufactured in the latest 0,13 micrometer Copper/SOI CMOS technology
  • Runs at frequencies ranging from 1.8 GHz - 2.5 GHz

Therefore the IBM PowerPC 970 is the fastest PowerPC so far.

Further technical highlights of the PowerPC 970:

  • Onchip 512 KB L2 Cache
  • AltiVec ™ Vector/SIMD unit
  • 6,4 GB/s I/O system bus throughput

Currently, IBM's Web site shows the BladeCenter as being Intel-only, and there is no more specific information on the PowerPC Blade. There was no time line from IBM for delivering the new server, either, though the company has previously said that the PowerPC 970 itself would be ramping up production in the second half of 2003.

The Mac Observer Spin:

There are a couple of things that are significant in this press release. There's the speed listed, which is encouraging, but we are more interested in the fact that IBM will have more than one customer for its desktop computing, itself.

Part of the perceived problem with Motorola's commitment to the G4 has been that Apple was its only customer outside the embedded market. This has resulted in Motorola putting more of its research resources into embedded applications for the G4 line and other PowerPC products, instead of making the processor better for use in desktop computing.

The performance gap that exists today in Apple's Power Mac line is a direct result of that dichotomy, and it is one that has truly transcended the MHz Myth, which still exists, and become an actual performance disparity between Apple's high end work stations, and high-end work stations built around Intel and AMD. It is our opinion that Apple's inability to gain market share centers around that disparity, and not around such issues as pricing.

If IBM is building its own Linux based servers around the PowerPC 970, that offers the company additional reasons to develop the processor. That, in turn, should make the processor an even more attractive one for Apple, even while making it a safer bet.

All of this is still in the future though, as there is no indication that IBM is ready to release the 970, let alone that Apple will be adopting it.

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