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IBM on Friday introduced its latest addition to the PowerPC processor lineup that will soon be used in Apple’s Power Mac computers. Apart from the second core, from functionality standpoint, the chip, which was code-named Antares, seems to be similar to currently available PowerPC 970FX central processing units.

At Power Everywhere forum in Tokyo, Japan, IBM released some details about the PowerPC 970MP processor it had been working with for more than a year. Unfortunately, not a lot of information has been let out.

IBM’s PowerPC 970MP processor has two PowerPC 970FX-like 32-/64-bit processing engines inside, each of the cores have dedicated 1MB level-two cache. While initially some sources suggested that IBM’s dual-core chip for desktops, workstations and blade servers would be clocked at up to 3.0GHz, commercial chips will operate in the range of 1.40GHz – 2.50GHz, a bit lower compared to the speed of the current top-of-the-range PowerPC 970FX product that works at 2.70GHz.

The PowerPC 970MP is expected to feature a copper bus with 10 layers of metal: the dual cores will share a single Elastic Interface (EI) bus supporting a wide range of bus ratios and opening the door for higher than 1000MHz bus speeds, according to previous reports. The new microprocessor supports symmetric multiprocessing SMP, which allows to install two or more such chips in a system.

IBM’s latest central processing unit (CPU) features power saving technology called PowerTune. The frequency and voltage of both cores can be scaled downward to reduce the power during periods of reduced workload. For further power savings, each core can be independently placed in a power-saving state called “doze”, while the other core continues operation. Moreover, one of the cores can be completely de-powered during periods of less stringent performance requirements.

While IBM does not provide any details about power consumption of the chip, it is unlikely that it is too high, as the firm positions the PowerPC 970MP not only for desktops, workstations and blade servers, but also for embedded applications that typically require low power consumption of its components.

IBM did not specify whether the new CPU sports any advantages, such as virtualization, over the predecessor in addition to the second core. It is likely that the PowerPC 970MP inherited the complete functional heritage of the PowerPC 970FX.

IBM’s PowerPC 970MP chip is made using 90nm CMOS SOI10K fabrication process at IBM. The die size was reported to be 154 square millimeters, about 25% lower than that of Intel Pentium D microprocessor. The new PowerPC 970MP chips feature ABIST (array built-in self-test) diagnostic for test and qualification simplifications.

It is unclear when IBM starts commercial shipments of the PowerPC 970MP.


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