IBM boosts System z processing speed

At this week’s Hot Chips Conference Brian Curran, IBM Distinguished Engineer discussed their recently announced, new faster processing chip for System z mainframe environments that runs at 5.2Ghz.  (FYI, the first 31 minutes of the YouTube video link above are from Brian’s session and the first 10 minutes provides a good overview of the chip.)

Brian discussed System z environments which mainly run large mission critical applications such as OLTP, which use large instruction and data caches.  Also System Z is now being used for Linux consolidation with 1000s of Linux machines running on a mainframe.

The numbers

The new z196 processing core provides up to a 40% improvement executing mainframe applications.  Also, the new processor chip was measured at 50 Billion instructions per second (Bips).

In addition, the z196 achieved a remarkable 40% code thread constant improvement and another 20-30% throughput performance improvement was attainable through re-compilation.  Moreover, they have shown a sustained system execution throughput (multi-thread/multi-application) of 400 Bips.  All this was done without increasing energy consumption over current generation System z processing chips.

Cache everywhere and lots of it

The z196 chip is a 45nm 1.4B transistor, quad core processor with two onboard, special purpose co-processors for cryptographic and compression acceleration. The z196 processing chip has 64KB L1 private I-cache (instruction) and 128KB private D-cache (data), with a 1.5MB private L2 cache. The two L1 & L2 SRAM caches are replicated for each of the four cores.  There is an onboard shared 24MB eDRAM L3 cache as well. With a full 5.2Ghz clock speed across all cores in the z196 quad-core processor group.

Each z196 processing core supports out-of-order instruction execution with a 40 instruction window size.   Further, all data is protected with ECC and hardened with parity and/or duplication for processing steps.

Six of these z196 processing chips combine together to form a processor node on a multi-chip module (MCM).  There is an industry first additional 192MB eDRAM L4 cache shared across the six processing chips on a MCM.  Each System z MCM can interface with up to 750GB of main memory.

In a System z processing frame there can be up to four MCMs, which then provides a total of 96 processing cores.  With the four MCMs, System z can address ~3TB of main memory.  Each MCM is fully interconnected with all other MCMs in a processing frame via a pair of redundant fabric interfaces.

System z is a CISC architecture which with the Z196 has passed the 1000 instruction count barrier (1079 instructions).  Whew, glad I am not coding in Assembler anymore.

IBM formerly announced the chip a month ago and it will be in shipping System z product later this year.

There was some mention by WSJ blogs of Power systems 7+ going up to 5.5Ghz   but I couldn’t locate a more definitive source for that news.


Image: Z10 by Roberto Berlim


One thought on “IBM boosts System z processing speed

  1. IBM's z Next and power 7 + processors are expected to be unveiled in Hot Chips conference ( Aug 27 to 29 , 2012) held at Silicon Valley. z Next with processing power of 5.5 GHz will then be the fastest processors in the world. Waiting for more updates regarding this. Any way the developments will be beneficial for the Mainframe industry as well as the whole IT industry.

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