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IBM reveals a monster 36-core mainframe module

One socket, many cores
Fri Jan 11 2013, 12:45

ENTERPRISE VENDOR IBM is slowly lifting the veil on its latest mainframe chip that will be detailed at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco next month.

So far we know that the chip has six cores and that IBM mounts six of those in a single package called a multi-chip module. Each module thus comprises 36 cores. Add to this two dies with 384MB of embedded DRAM. The chip is clocked at 5.5GHz and is fabbed in an advanced 32nm process employing both silicon-on-insulator as well as high-K metal gate semiconductor technology, according to the preliminary program from ISSCC.

The chip goes into the latest z series Enterprise EC12 mainframe systems that IBM announced last August.

Each system can contain a maximum of 101 sockets and delivers a 50 percent performance improvement over the previous 5.2GHz chips with four cores, according to IBM.

IBM fabs its own chips at its East Fishkill plant, where it has also been cooperating with Globalfoundries on chip technology. Each chip contains 15 metal layers, which is more than the traditional 10 to 12 layers that we see in most other chips.

Mainframes are still widely used by large financial institutions, but also by large telecom carriers like China Mobile, which needs to keep track of more than 700 million subscribers that are taken care of by a DB2 database running on an IBM z series mainframe system.

China Mobile uses the database not only for billing, but also for data warehousing and analytics in order to prevent customers from switching carriers by analysing their call patterns and offering them better terms when China Mobile detects that a customer might be about to switch.

We'll bring you full details on the IBM mainframe chip from ISSCC next month. µ


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