IBM Unveils Its Latest Big Iron

At last week’s Hot Chips, it was beginning to seem like we wouldn’t see too much in the way of raw speed. Hot Chips is one of the key conferences for chip designers, but hot’s no longer in fashion, or even really feasible. Nowadays, as transistors have gotten leakier and mobile computing’s become big business, the focus is on energy efficiency: How to get the most bang for your watt (or, fraction thereof).

So I do have to hand it to IBM for carrying the torch. In the last talk of the conference on Wednesday, senior technical staff member Chung-Lung (Kevin) Shum revealed some specifics on the “hearts and guts” of Big Blue’s new zNEXT mainframe processor, which will ship with a speed rating of 5.5 GHz. According to the company’s press release, that makes the processor either the “world’s fastest chip” or, more cryptically, the “world’s fastest chip running at 5.5 GHz” (there seems to be a missing comma, or this is a very limited boast). [read more..]