IBM Unveils Its First 7nm Processor, Complete With “Memory Inception”August 18, 2020 by Jake Hertz
This week, IBM announced its new POWER10 processor, the 7nm successor to POWER9.
Moore’s law is coming to an end, but we still have a little bit more innovation to squeeze out before it's over. While 7nm has already been brought to market, notably with Apple’s A13 Bionic chip in the iPhone 11, it wasn’t until this week that computer giant IBM jumped on the bandwagon.
IBM POWER10 chip. Image used courtesy of IBM
Yesterday, IBM announced the release of its POWER10 generation of processors. POWER10, the successor to POWER9, is IBM’s first 7nm processor and offers significant improvements over POWER9.
IBM POWER10: What’s New?
For its newest line of processors, IBM didn’t just take POWER9, a 14nm technology, and convert it into a 7nm node size. The new POWER10 family offers stark improvements and new features. In fact, according to IBM, POWER10 incorporates hundreds of new and pending patents.
Along with the downscaling, POWER10’s most notable new feature is what IBM calls “memory inception.” Created with cloud computing in mind, memory inception affords processors the ability to pool or cluster physical memory across IBM POWER10-based systems, once available, in a variety of configurations.
Any system using the IBM POWER10 will be able to create multi-petabyte sized memory clusters by accessing and sharing each other's memory.
Working principle of memory inception. Screenshot used courtesy of IBM
Both cloud users and providers will be able to benefit from memory inception. By pooling and sharing memory across POWER10 systems, cloud providers can offer more capability using fewer servers, while cloud users can lease fewer resources to meet their IT needs.
IBM Ups Security and AI Capability
Along with memory inception, POWER10 offers new security features and improved AI capabilities. The first of a slew of security features, POWER10 offers hardware memory encryption and supports faster cryptography performance as a result of additional AES encryption engines.
Further, IBM POWER10 is designed to deliver new hardware-enforced container protection and isolation capabilities. If a container were to be compromised, the processor has the ability to protect other containers in the same virtual machine from being affected by the same attack.
A number of POWER10 processors on a silicon wafer. Image used courtesy of IBM
With respect to AI workloads, POWER10 is designed to enhance in-core AI inferencing capability without requiring additional specialized hardware. The new line of processors includes a Matrix Math Accelerator—which is expected to achieve 10, 15, and 20 times faster AI inference for FP32, BFloat16, and INT8 calculations, respectively—over POWER9.
How Much Better Is It from POWER9?
POWER10 seems like an impressive improvement from POWER9. Along with the new features, IBM claims a three times improvement in capacity and processor energy efficiency within the same power envelope as IBM POWER9, allowing for greater performance.
Benefiting from Samsung’s 7nm manufacturing process, IBM hopes to have POWER10 chips available to market by the second half of 2021. When that occurs, IBM claims it will usher in the future of the hybrid cloud.