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Fastest Chip Powers New IBM Mainframe

z196 processor is the product of a global design effort spanning IBM facilities in the U.S and abroad.

IBM has released more details on the processor that will be at the heart of its newest mainframe computer.

The four-core z196 processor runs at an industry fastest 5.2GHz, and contains 1.4 billion transistors on a 512-square millimeter surface, according to the company.

The chip, built on IBM's 45 nanometer SOI processor technology, was designed at an IBM lab in Poughkeepsie, NY, and manufactured at its fabrication plant in East Fishkill, NY. Contributions were also made in IBM labs in Austin, TX, Germany, Israel, and India, the company said.

The z196 processor will power the new zEnterprise 196, the most powerful mainframe in IBM's history.

The zEnterprise 196, which supercedes the z10 in IBM's heavy metal lineup, can absorb a broad range of tasks and platforms that are generally strewn across data center floors in the name of distributed computing.

"There's a dramatic difference between a highly distributed footprint and a highly consolidated footprint," said Steve Mills, IBM's senior VP for Software and Systems, at a launch event in New York City in July. The latter, Mills said, offers big savings on a number of fronts—including labor, parts, cabling, power, storage, and real estate.

The zEnterprise 196 ships later this month with prices starting at $1 million. With 96 z196 chips on board, the raw speed is there for real-time and in-line transaction processing, and the system can support up to 100,000 virtual images.

Scalability shouldn't be an issue either, as zEnterprise offers a BladeCenter Extension module that lets users add the mainframe's heft to their existing Power7 and System x BladeCenter servers for specific tasks like analytics and Web infrastructure management.

The extension also means the zEnterprise can provide back-end support for any application written for Power7 and x86 environments—a setup that opens the mainframe to a whole new class of developers.

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