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August 25, 1997updated 03 Sep 2016 7:03pm


By CBR Staff Writer

Dear oh dear. The 64-bit PowerPC 620 has turned out to be the albatross round IBM Corp’s neck we always feared it would be (CI No 2,875), and Big Blue has abandoned any notion it had of using the misbegotten processor in new RS/6000 AIX systems. It was supposed to have announced its 620 system plans on October 9th but must now hope that the extended 32-bit PCI bus PowerPC 604e technology and new 64-bit MCA micro channel architecture Raven systems courtesy of the of AS/400 division, also to be announced on the 9th, will take up the slack, though analysts say users will be left sorely wanting. How IBM will explain its way out of this one remains to be seen. Officially the company says 620 didn’t meet its requirements and that it couldn’t of got the thing into systems this year in any case. Unofficially, analysts say the part simply isn’t good enough. The on-off 620 debacle puts IBM’s Somerset PowerPC design team right in the doghouse, after it repeatedly insisted 620 would turn out to be a healthy pup (CI Nos 2,930, 3,040). Trouble is that by the time 620’s design performance problems were ironed out, the 604e had all-but caught up with it. Although IBM has told partners it will continue to develop 620 to fulfill contractual obligations, companies betting on the 620, such as Compagnie des Machines Bull SA, look as though they have been sold up the creek without a paddle. They’re trying to make head of tail of a tangled web of negotiations over 620 that IBM is having with PowerPC design partner Motorola Inc. Caught on the hop by IBM’s jettisoning of 620 system plans – and having previously reigned in its own plan to introduce 620-based systems so as to fall into line with IBM’s own product roadmap (CI No 3,050) – Bull says it’ll be mid- September before it can come up with a revised product introduction plan and doesn’t expect to ship 620 products this year. It maintains, however, that its Escala servers are 64-bit ready, unlike IBM’s F40 and F50 PCI bus servers. IBM may be ready to fulfill the letter of its contract with Bull, but how long will the French company, which needs a bunch of hit records, be able to flog what’s already a dead horse to RS/6000’s mind?

Gaping hole

On October 9th, IBM is expected to upgrade the current four-way PCI bus F50 RS/6000 server, introduced back in April with 166MHz PowerPC 604e CPUs, to a Wildcat H50 system design housing up to four 250MHz 604e CPUs done in the new Mach 5 process design performing up to 10,000 tpmC transactions per minute, compared with 8,200 for the F50. A further turn of the 604e screw next April will result in an enhanced product codenamed Bobcat. However, not until October 1998 will IBM be able to ship a one- to-eight way 32-bit PCI offering, the H60, performing up to 14,000 tpmC. The line will finally reach 64-bits in 1999 with the PowerPC 630 and 630+, IBM’s merged Power and PowerPC RISC architectures. The demise of the 620 products leaves a gaping hole between Wildcat and the October 1998 eight-way that will hurt power-hungry users badly, analysts say. Also on October 9th, IBM plans to introduce the RS/6000s ‘Raven’ servers which use the single-chip PowerPC 625 Apache chip that IBM’s AS/400 division culled from its multi-chip PowerPC AS and introduced a couple of weeks ago in its own AS/400e servers. RS/6000 Apache servers are expected to debut as F70 four-to-12 way 225MHz processor MCA micro channel architecture bus servers performing up to 18,000 tpmC compared with the 24,000 tpmC the new AS/400e can achieve with its integrated DB2/400 database. They’re specifically commercial systems and lack the kind of high-performance compute capability that 620 was to have delivered for technical and scientific users. According to the new roadmap – we don’t suggest anyone use this for accurate product directions given recent experience – IBM will introduce AS/400 and RS/6000 systems using super PowerPC AS chip, which uses elements of PowerPC 630, code- named Northstar next October. It’s being touted as a 550MHz device and will be used in RS/6000 S70++ servers. It’s not just the RS/6000 group’s server plans that are in disarray. Analysts say workstations users are also screaming for more power. They’ll get a new two-way 330MHz PowerPC 604e PCI system code-named Sphinx next April and there’ll be another turn of the MCA Power2 clock rate later this year for the uniprocessor Series 300 desktops currently at 67MHz. They’re not yet available with the 135MHz Power2 Super Chips. IBM’s said to have been struggling to get a re-packaged multiprocessing workstation design to product after losing about a year when the short-lived Power Personal systems division kiboshed any notion of an SMP desktop design.

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