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A Mainframe Roadmap

Poking around the World Wide Web these days can occasionally be rewarding. A brief search will uncover a number of stories about "eCLipz" - most of them a year or more old. But the information up there seems to be a little wide of the mark.

The project - supposedly started in 2001 - is known as eClipz, which probably stands for something like "enhanced Core logic for iSeries, pSeries and zSeries". Of course, with Sun being a major competitor, the name may have been chosen for other reasons.

IBM has had enormous success with its POWER technology - not just in servers but in embedded systems of all sizes, games consoles, automobiles, etc., so it is receiving major investment and will be around for a fair while to come - in marked contrast to Intel's Itanium. eClipz has been associated with POWER6, and since the current iSeries and pSeries are often referred to as I5 and P5, it seems logical that the "ipz" will be I6, P6 and Z6.

But whereas iSeries and pSeries share a common processor, the zSeries won't - its architecture is just too different. An awful lot of the technology, however, will be identical - some chip-level functions, same system libraries, hardware management console, same memory, same cabinets, etc. This will include I/O, based on Infiniband.

One of IBM's gurus has suggested that POWER6 will use 0.10 micron technology - others have suggested that the mid-life kicker (probably in 2008) will use 0.065 micron technology and run at 6GHz, with the Z6 version probably a little slower.

The packaging might well create a problem in z/OS, since its memory model is far from ideal for large multiprocessors. IBM has been compensating for this for a long time using ultra-dense TCMs/MCMs to keep signal path lengths to an absolute minimum - a "chip carrier" approach could well have an MP factor impact.

POWER6 will be IBM's biggest chip to date - probably four stacks per chip - and will use technology that concerves power in parts of the processor that are not in use. Performance/watt is now an important metric.

Althoug even IBM might have another use for POWER6.

Although POWER was said to be "95 to 97 percent" of the way toward a mainframe processor in 2003, Z6 will probably not appear until late 2007 or early 2008.

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