IBM drops Power7+ in high-end Unix servers

IBM has started to roll out a new processor for its Power family of servers, a staggered affair that will start with higher-end systems and eventually reach the midrange and low-end boxes.

The new Power7+ chip has a higher clock speed than its predecessor, at up to 4.4Ghz, but the biggest change is in the Level 3 on-chip memory cache, which IBM has expanded to a sizeable 80MB, from 32MB on the Power7.

The bigger cache means more of the data being used for calculations -- the "working set" -- can be stored on the chip close to the CPU cores, which helps to speed operations. With a smaller cache, data has to be fetched more frequently from main memory.

The higher clock speed and larger cache will give a boost in performance for databases and Java applications, according to Satya Sharma , CTO for IBM's Power Systems business and an IBM "fellow," or one of its top engineers. "We can improve performance for some Java applications by up to 40 percent compared to the Power7," Sharma said.

IBM's top brass are due to discuss its systems business during a at 11 am Eastern Wednesday. They may also talk about a new, high-end storage system called the DS8870 and an update to IBM's DB2 Analytics Accelerator, which are also being announced.

Across the country at about the same time, Oracle systems chief John Fowler is due to give a keynote speech at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, and Hewlett-Packard is holding its financial analyst day, where it's sure to give an update on its systems strategy.