BBCWatcher writes: This month a new world's fastest microprocessor was revealed at the Hot Chips conference in the final presentation slot, and it's a shocker. IBM starts shipping their z196 servers, and (surprise!) the fastest microprocessor is exclusively inside their latest mainframe. As chip designers slam hard into the physical limits of Moore's Law, get used to a new world of mainframe performance dominance. For decades mainframes have excelled in delivering high throughput for multiple concurrent applications (i.e. cloud computing), but you would have had to look elsewhere (to a supercomputer, to Intel or to IBM's POWER) to find the world's fastest computational performance. Not this time: Mainframe and Supercomputer have combined their DNA. The quad-core z196 CPU design is clocked at a world record 5.2 GHz (with no "burst" cheats), but the clock speed only partly explains why the z196 screams. The z196 has out-of-order execution, a first for IBM mainframes, and insane amounts of cache, including on-chip DRAM, spread across a record number of levels. There are also hardware instructions that accelerate advanced cryptography, precision decimal floating point operations, compression, and other complex tasks. (This is CISC design in all its glory.) Unfortunately the "press" gets a lot of details wrong (ahem, Fox News), but that's sometimes what happens with unexpected technical news.
BBCWatcher writes: So what's the world's fastest microprocessor? Intel's latest X86? No, maybe later. AMD? No. Itanium? Heck no, never. SPARC? Goodness no, are they still around? IBM's POWER7? Closest... but not at the moment. Today it's IBM's zEnterprise 196, i.e. the newest mainframe model. A mainframe holding the honor of world's fastest microprocessor? Yes, and it's time to get used to it. IBM's engineers have just rocked the server world by taking the world's fastest microprocessor, clocked at a constant and unsurpassed 5.2 GHz (!) with new out-of-order instruction execution (while keeping mainframe instruction result verification and on-the-fly fault recovery and core fail-over), putting 96 cores of them into a single machine, surrounding them with 4 (!) levels of cache memory (each far larger than anything else), providing 3 TB (usable) of the world's first and only RAIM-protected fast memory (that's RAID for RAM), giving them scores of dedicated assist processors, accelerating the already famous mainframe I/O... and, to top it all off, adding in mainframe-managed closely attached blade servers to mop up the data center floor. IBM says more than 100,000 virtual servers can run on a single zEnterprise System with zEnterprise BladeCenter Expansion feature. And of course it's built to keep your important applications running continuously, no excuses, with no interruptions for either hardware or software changes. ....I want one.
BBCWatcher writes: Germany's Wilhelm Schickard Institut fur Informatik has just published a paper on "System z and z/OS Unique Characteristics," and here's its thought-provoking opener: "Many people still associate mainframes with obsolete technology. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. Mainframes feature many hardware, software, and system integration technologies that are either not at all, or only in an elementary form, available on other server platforms. On the other hand, we know of no advanced server features which are not available on mainframes." The report provides comparisons (to the extent possible) between 40+ mainframe capabilities and other servers' capabilities, with lots of references. Although quite technical, the paper is approachable. (Sun's mainframe-critical ad reprinted in the report is especially amusing given recent history.) There's also this closing prediction: "We assume that present [mainframe] technologies...will become available on other server platforms within the next 10 years. We also assume mainframes will have introduced new not yet identified technologies [during] this time, and that the size of the technology gap will remain roughly the same. During the last 30-40 years this has been the case, and the driving forces have not changed." IBM says there's a new mainframe model coming this year, so we'll see more of the leading edge soon.
BBCWatcher writes: The Register's headline is a little misleading (mainframes are also UNIX machines), but the basic facts are these: BC Card, Korea's largest credit card company, is ejecting its many HP and Sun UNIX servers, and Oracle databases, and replacing them with (undoubtedly fewer) IBM System z10 servers (a.k.a. "mainframes") running z/OS, CICS Transaction Server, DB2 for z/OS, WebSphere Application Server for z/OS, Java, C/C++, Tivoli and InfoSphere software, etc., for its next generation credit card processing applications. IBM dropped the bombshell before Christmas, but the (stunned? vacationing?) Western IT press is only now waking up to recognize its significance. Sayeth BC Card's CIO, JeongKyu Lee: "We chose System z for its continuous operation, service quality made available through IBM's mainframe software solutions, and economic returns for the years ahead." Likely translation: "People expect their cards to work, we deal with serious Won every minute, this z stuff is the best damn tech for the mission, and IBM wanted our business." BC Card, founded in 1982, has never had a mainframe before.
BBCWatcher writes: More bad news in the Oracle-Sun nuptuals. Numerous press outlets (here, here, here, etc.) report that the European Commission has lodged formal objections to Oracle's planned $7.4B acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Previously the Commission planned their final ruling for January 19, 2010, but the formal objections now cast doubt on that deadline or whether Oracle can satisfy anti-trust regulators anytime soon (or ever). Says Oracle in a statement: "The commission's statement of objections reveals a profound misunderstanding of both database competition and open-source dynamics. It is well understood by those knowledgeable about open-source software that because MySQL is open source, it cannot be controlled by anyone. That is the whole point of open source." Oracle and Sun are worried about the delay, as Sun is hemorrhaging customers and employees amid the increasing uncertainty. Sun just reported fiscal 1Q2010 earnings, with total sales falling 25% and server sales plunging 31.4%. Oracle could walk away from Sun for $260M, but reports suggest no such exit at this time. Traders are still getting nervous: Sun stock has fallen away from Oracle's bid price recently.