IBM's New POWER6 ProcessorPOWER6™

IBM’s new microprocessor boasts enhanced performance & simplified packaging

IBM’ new POWER6 dual-core, 64-bit processors present a huge performance increase over the previous generation of IBM’s POWER5 & POWER5+ chips.

Available in 5.0GHz, 4.7GHz, 4.2GHz, 4.0GHz, 3.8GHz & 3.5GHz clock speeds, the POWER6 enables a 70% performance increase over POWER5 processors when running a typical i5/OS application. In CPU-intensive applications, the POWER6 performs at 2x the speed of POWER5, and 50% better than POWER5+ processors.

These ultra high-frequency chips also include integrated hardware acceleration. Decimal floating-point optimizes business application performance, while the AltiVec™ vectorized math accelerator maximizes the performance of HPC 3D modeling needs.

The IBM POWER6 features 128KB of L1 cache, and shares 4MB of L2 cache, where 2MB may be assigned to a specific core, but it can be accessed quickly by the other core as needed. In addition, the POWER6 has 32MB L3 cache over a 80Gbps bus, and can transfer data on & off the chip quickly with 300Gbps processor bandwidth.

The POWER6 can connect to 3 other processors in four-socket group utilizing a first-tier communications fabric, and each four-socket group can connect to 7 other groups via a second-tier communications fabric, connecting up to 32 processors with 50Gbps inter-node links. Also, the Virtual Vector Architecture built into the processor allows multiple POWER6 nodes to act as a single Vector processor for 3D modeling & HPC.

Increase Uptime

New features like Live Partition and Application Mobility can help keep systems available throughout maintenance and re-hosting operations. In addition, concurrent firmware and OS upgrades are supported with the POWER6 processors, allowing operating system and updates to hardware to occur while applications are still active. Error recovery is also enhanced with the POWER6 chip to maximize uptime with automatic instruction retries on alternative processors, increasing error recovery options.

Integrated decimal arithmetic

The IBM POWER6 processor is the first of its kind to support integrated decimal floating-point calculations right on the silicon. This hardware support for decimal-base operations, rather than having to translate binary to decimal at the software level, is ideal for tax, ERP & other financial applications.


Although IBM has claimed large performance improvements with its POWER6 processors, it also has proven success in Unix application benchmarking. IBM claimed top spots for 4 of the best known performance benchmarks for Unix servers with the POWER6 chips:

  • SPECint2006 (integer calculations)
  • SPECfp2006 (floating-point calculations)
  • SPECjbb2005 (Java™ performance)
  • TPC-C (transaction processing)

IBM’s POWER6 features a variety of other top-core performance results in over 25 benchmarks for a wide variety of client environments.


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