Opinions Vary On IBM's PowerPC 970, IBM's Specs Offer 900 MHz Bus Speeds

A Reuters report saying that Apple will be adopting IBMis new PowerPC 970 processor for the Mac product line is causing much ado in the Mac community. While some are hopeful the new processor will represent a power boost to the Mac line, others are tense about a perceived small boost in the MHz rating of the processor to 1.8 GHz, though it wonit appear for another year. All of this comes without any official word from Apple on whether or not the processor will actually be adopted, so itis important to keep everything in perspective (for a learned perspective, check out David K. Everyis take on whether or not 64-bit computing offers anything in the way of a performance boost). There is no indication from Apple itself that this processor will be used in any of its products, and the speculation towards this is being fueled by the Reuters report.

With that backdrop, we peeked into IBMis press release for the new processor. In addition to the 0.13-micron circuitry, which makes the processor smaller and cooler, IBM will be introducing the processor with a 900 MHz bus speed between the RAM and the processor. That leapfrogs the 400 MHz bus speeds being used on some PC motherboards. IBM says that those speeds allow data throughput of up to 6.4 Gigabytes per second. The company also says that the PowerPC 970 will support SMP, or multiple processors working together, something Apple has taken advantage of in its server and PowerMac lines with the G4. From IBMis press release:

IBM today announced a newly-developed, high-performance PowerPC microprocessor for use in a variety of applications, including desktops, workstations, servers and communications products.

The new chip, called the IBM PowerPC 970, is derived from IBMis award-winning POWER4 server processor to provide high performance and additional function for users. As the first in a new family of high-end PowerPC processors, the chip is designed for initial speeds of up to 1.8 gigahertz, manipulating data in larger, 64-bit chunks and accelerating compute-intensive workloads like multimedia and graphics through specialized circuitry known as a single instruction multiple data (SIMD) unit.

IBM plans to build the chip in its new state-of-the-art 300mm manufacturing facility here using leading-edge manufacturing technologies. IBM plans to pack performance and new features into the chip using ultra-thin 0.13-micron circuitry (nearly 800 times thinner than a human hair), constructed of copper wiring and about 52 million transistors based on IBMis efficient silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology. Additional details on the PowerPC 970 are to be disclosed by IBM this week in a paper presented at Microprocessor Forum, a chip design conference organized by industry analyst firm In-Stat/MDR.

"IBMis new PowerPC 970 64-bit chip is all about bringing high-end server processing power to the desktop, low-end server and pervasive space," said Michel Mayer, general manager, IBM Microelectronics Division. "IBM is committed to helping more customers put our expertise in advanced chip design and manufacturing technology to work for them."

The chip incorporates an innovative communications link, or "bus," specially developed to speed information between the processor and memory. Running at a speed of up to 900 megahertz, the bus can deliver information to the processor at up to 6.4 gigabytes per second, to help ensure that the high-performance processor is fed data at sufficient speeds.

While supporting 64-bit computing for emerging applications, the PowerPC 970 also provides native support for traditional 32-bit applications, which can help preserve users&Mac226; and developers&Mac226; software investments. The design also supports symmetric multi-processing (SMP), allowing systems to be created that link multiple processors to work in tandem for additional processing power.

IBM plans to make the PowerPC 970 chip available next year.

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