IBM Demos 5.2GHz Processor

Big Blue has pulled the curtains on the fastest commercial processor ever, one with a default clock speed of 5.2GHz, at the Hot Chips 2010 conference.

(In comparison, the fastest commercial x86 processor from rival Intel - the Pentium 670 - ran at a mere 3.8Ghz although overclocked samples reached 8Ghz).

The Z196 will be used exclusively in IBM's z-Series of mainframe systems and should start shipping as from September 2010.

The chip's die size stands at 512 square mm and IBM chose a 45nm SOI manufacturing process to build it, hardly cutting edge these days.

It contains 1.4 billion transistors, 64KB L1 instruction cache, 128KB L1 data cache, 1.5MB L2 cache per core and two co-processors for cryptographic processes.

At this stage, we don't know how many cores will be available per socket, however, Brian Curran, the IBM distinguished engineer who made the presentation at Hot Chips, saisd that a four node system will have 19.5MB worth of L1 cache, 144MB of L2 cache, 576MB of L3 eDRAM Cache and 768MB of L4 eDRAM cache.

A rough calculation shows that each node would contain about 24 cores. The Z196 is being pitched as one of the last big CISC processors and handles 1079 different instructions with around a third of them being RISC-like.

Expect the first SPECint benchmarks to appear in a few weeks' time and the first systems - possibly with a retail cost of more than $1m - to ship by then.