The World's Fastest Microprocessor

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The World's Fastest Microprocessor

IBM's zEnterprise z196 contains the world's fastest microprocessor. Yes, you read that correctly: the mainframe contains the fastest cores in the world. Welcome to a new world.

The dirty little secret in microprocessor design is that engineers are increasingly slamming into brick walls. It's getting more and more difficult (and expensive) to continue to enhance processor speed. Intel many years ago gave up on clock speed improvements, stabilizing at 3-point-something Gigahertz. The IBM z196 microprocessor runs at a record 5.2 GHz. (That's continuous clock speed and with all cores active, not some sort of "burst" mode.) A faster clock speed is still quite important — let's not kid ourselves — but there are also several other improvements in the z196 processor. One of them is out-of-order execution, something that IBM figured out how to do while enhancing reliability. IBM also made great improvements in cache sizes and architecture.

Fastest means fastest: the z196 cores are presently the fastest cores in the world. Let's be very clear here: if you double the number of cores you don't double performance. If you're performing one task, adding cores won't help. Sure, mainframes are expressly designed to juggle multiple concurrent workloads, but each task dispatched to a z196 core, even a computationally intense one, can now run faster than it would on any alternative core. This engineering accomplishment only adds to the mainframe's already impressive throughput performance.

Watch some IBM engineers discuss the z196's performance:

by Timothy Sipples September 7, 2010 in Innovation, Systems Technology


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So 9 women can't make a baby in 1 month?

Posted by: James | Sep 8, 2010 2:40:50 PM

One of the country's leading manufacturers of microprocessors began as a start up and now handles some of the government contracts that make our military so efficient. Check out to hear the full story.

Posted by: Brian | Nov 15, 2010 1:30:37 PM

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