IBM details next-gen POWER10 processor

New CPU is optimized for enterprise hybrid cloud and AI inferencing, and it features a new technology for creating petabyte-scale memory clusters.

IBM Power10 in socket

IBM on Monday took the wraps off its latest POWER RISC CPU family, optimized for enterprise hybrid-cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) inferencing, along with a number of other improvements.

Power is the last of the Unix processors from the 1990s, when Sun Microsystems, HP, SGI, and IBM all had competing Unixes and RISC processors to go with them. Unix gave way to Linux and RISC gave way to x86, but IBM holds on.

This is IBM's first 7-nanometer processor, and IBM claims it will deliver an up-to-three-times improvement in capacity and processor energy efficiency within the same power envelope as its POWER9 predecessor. The processor comes in a 15-core design (actually 16-cores but one is not used) and allows for single or dual chip models, so IBM can put two processors in the same form factor. Each core can have up to eight threads, and each socket supports up to 4TB of memory.

More interesting is a new memory clustering technology called Memory Inception. This form of clustering allows the system to view memory in another physical server as though it were its own. So instead of putting a lot of memory in each box, servers can literally borrow from their neighbors when there is a spike in demand for memory. Or admins can set up one big server with lots of memory in the middle of a cluster and surround it with low-memory servers that can borrow memory as needed from the high capacity server.

All of this is done with a latency of 50 to 100 nanoseconds. "This has been a holy grail of the industry for a while now," said William Starke, a distinguished engineer with IBM, on a video conference in advance of the announcement. "Instead of putting a lot of memory in each box, when we have a spike demand for memory I can borrow from my neighbors."

POWER10 uses something called Open Memory Interfaces (OMI), so the server can use DDR4 now and be upgraded to DDR5 when it hits the market, and it can also use GDDR6 memory used in GPUs. In theory, POWER10 will come with 1TB/sec of memory bandwidth and 1TB/sec of SMP of bandwidth.

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