Rochester, NY —IBM's latest high-end server line takes advantage of two elements—copper and silicon—to achieve speed and power.
The AS/400e servers represent the company's sixth generation of 64-bit RISC processors and now feature a high-end 8xx family—the 820, 830, and 840. This group is designed for complex business and Internet applications, such as supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM), and B2B.
The new 8xx machines achieve their performance gains through two technological innovations in their PowerPC IStar processors, says Ian Jarman, AS/400 product marketing manager. First, instead of using the usual aluminum for chip wiring, IBM has used highly conductive copper. As chips shrink, aluminum is reaching its physical limits, since engineers must push more electrons through thinner wires. Copper is much harder to manipulate at these small scales, but it allows transistors to communicate faster, increasing performance while it decreases chip size and power consumption. And second, the company uses silicon-on-insulator (SOI) to protect the chip's millions of transistors with a blanket of insulation, thus reducing electrical leakage. By isolating the individual transistors, SOI allows them to communicate better with each other, and the whole system runs faster. Thus SOI increases performance 20 to 30% over processors that use copper alone, such as the company's Pulsar processor, he says.
The servers also gain speed by linking their processors together, from a group of 1-4 in the 820 to a group of 12-24 in the 840. With 24 of the 500 MHz processors, the 840 boasts 96 GB memory and 14 buses. And it can achieve up to 1 Gigabyte/sec bandwidth and more than 2 terabytes/ hour save performance.
And finally, the 8xx series draws power by integrating much of the hardware, software, tools, and operating system into a single package. "We are kind of like the Apple Macintosh of the business world," Jarman says. "We believe that integration brings simplicity, and that our customers should be running their businesses, not their computers."