NEW YORK – With its eight-core Power7 chip launch on Monday, IBM Corp. spent little time hyping its new microprocessor, opting instead to highlight the server boxes the chip will run. 

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Big Blue rolled out four new Power7 systems at the launch event, including the IBM Power 755 Express, which it said delivered three times the performance for SAP workloads compared to any other four-socket server on the market. The 32-core system will be the first Energy Star qualified risk server available to customers, IBM said.

Also making its debut is the IBM Power 755 package, which is specialized for high performance computing workloads such as molecular dynamics, fluid modeling and cancer research.

The Power 755 line of systems deliver up to 32 Power7 cores and will be available on Feb. 19.

The IBM Power 770 and 780 product lines — which will be available in March — round out the new offerings, each delivering 64 Power7 cores across four nodes of compute power.

“You can take an entire IBM Power 570 workload and run it on one node on the 770,” said Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM’s Power Systems division.

IBM executives said the Power7 systems were designed to deliver intelligent performance, rather than raw performance.

“This is a platform that’s best prepared to deal with emerging and new types of demanding workloads in the future,” said Rod Adkins, senior vice-president of IBM’s Systems and Technology group. He also stressed the applicability of Power7 for real-time analytics and predictive workloads.

Each Power7 processor includes eight cores, up from the two cores per chip found in Power6 systems. One notable new feature for IBM’s new chip is TurboCore, which will give customers the ability to boost the speed of active cores.

The new systems, which IBM said have been designed to manage millions of transactions in real-time, will apparently deliver double the performance of the Power6 systems at the same cost of ownership. Power7 will also offer four times energy efficiency versus the previous Power system release, the company said.

IBM also said its hardware and software teams have worked closely for several years to ensure that Power7 will be optimized to run Lotus, Rational, Tivoli, and WebSphere software. The company also touted performance benchmarks for Power7 running SAP Inc. software.

Adkins said IBM customers should also expect more pre-packaged and pre-integrated solutions from its software group in the near future.

Scott Smith, client business manager with eMeter Corp., said his company ran a successful benchmark on a Power6 system for more than 20 million smart meters, a figure that ranks more than four times any other utility industry benchmark.

“We have aspirations for 50 million smart meters and beyond on Power7,” he said.

Despite the launch event, IBM appears to be just getting started with the Power7 line, as company executives continually stressed the four Power7 systems were just “the first in a family of announcements” expected over the next few months.

While the Power7 microprocessor is a key component to the Power7 systems, IBM chose to downplay the actual chips during the announcement and focus on the integrated stack.

The company also managed to take a few shots at Oracle Corp., in what’s shaping up to be an emerging rivalry between the two IT giants.

 “You will see this not as a reaction or an adjustment in strategy based on a recent acquisition,” Adkins said, indirectly referencing Oracle’s marathon Sun Microsystems strategy briefing last month.

Interestingly, both IBM and Oracle seem to be pushing a vision of a “complete systems” approach, optimized to work through the entire data centre stack.

Charles King, a principal analyst with Pund-IT Research Inc., said IBM customers will be extremely pleased with the Power7 systems and the company’s focus on high processor performance and improved reliability. He added that while the microprocessor stuff is always interesting to read about, IBM’s focus on the actual “boxes that customers will use” is refreshing to see.

“The bottom line is that the Power7 represents a big step forward that customers will find valuable for the apps they’re running,” he said.

As for its ongoing competition with Oracle, King said the new Power7 systems could put “the fear of God” into CEO Larry Ellison and company.

“If Ellison is serious about reviving UltraSPARC, the measuring stick for those systems will be Power7,” he said.

Steve Fields, IBM’s chief engineer of Power Systems development, agreed, saying that his company has been “living this integrated stack” for years. He added that the best place to run Oracle’s database software has always been on a Power System.

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