IBM touts higher clock speeds in Power6

Higher speeds to be balanced with lower power requirements

IBM Corp. Tuesday detailed new circuit design techniques that it says will double the clock speed of its forthcoming Power6 processors over the speed of its Power5 processors without dramatically increasing power requirements.

The multicore Power6, due next year, will run at speeds of more than 4GHz, said Brad McCredie, chief engineer of Power6 for IBM. Power5 operates at clock speeds in the 1.9GHz range.

IBM said it took a 'holistic' approach in its techniques to improve speed while keeping power requirements down.

"There are up to 8 layers in an average power chip, and IBM appears to have used just the right technology that gave them the fastest speed and least heat needed in each layer of the chip," said Richard Doherty, research director for The Envisioneering Group.

IBM's move to higher frequencies in its next-generation designs is a departure from the strategy of its competitor Sun Microsystems Inc., which has focused on moving to multicore processors and lower clock speeds as a way to keep power and heat in check.

IBM says Power6 will operate within a comparable 'power envelope' as competitive chips, but details on the architecture are still scant at this point.

"IBM says they can balance both and still get these higher speeds, but there's still lots of details yet to be revealed," said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst with In-Stat/MDR and editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report. "It sounds great, but you could have stripped down a whole bunch of functionality to get that higher speed, which wouldn't be so great."