World's fastest computer chip - The z196 microprocessor made by IBM

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World's fastest computer chip - The z196 microprocessor made by IBM Corp.

 IBM Corp., which has major research operations in Albany, says its new mainframe computer unveiled in July contains the world's fastest computer chip.

The chip, known as the z196, is used to power the zEnterprise, the most powerful and energy efficiency mainframe that Big Blue has ever made.
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The new z196 processor has 1.4 billion transistors on a 512-square-millimeter surface. It was designed in Poughkeepsie and manufactured at IBM's computer chip "fab" in East Fishkill, which is also in Dutchess County

But the early-stage technology research and development was done at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Fuller Road, company officials said.

"There's quite a bit of involvement across the Hudson Valley," said Charles Webb, a top engineer at IBM who helped lead the project.

The z196 operates at clock speeds of up to 5.2 gigahertz, which surpasses the previous world record holder held by IBM's own Power6 chip, which was introduced in 2007 and has top speeds of 5 gigahertz. A gigahertz is a unit of speed at which a chip can perform tasks.

IBM says it spent $1.5 billion on development of the z196 and the zEnterprise mainframe, with 5,000 employees working on the project.

IBM's mainframe computers, the most popular in the world, are used by companies like banks, insurance companies, credit card companies and major retailers to process transactions around the clock. The base model zEnterprise goes for $1 million.

Each zEnterprise contains 96 of the z196 chips, allowing it to handle 50 billion instructions per second.

The zEnterprise is also groundbreaking because it can pull together different servers at an organization and make them work more closely than previously. IBM says work that used to take hours -- for instance analyzing credit card transactions with data held on two separate computers -- can now be done in less than a second.

In effect, a mainframe and a group of other computers and servers can act as one instead of having to try and talk to one another to share information. IBM says it's the biggest change in its mainframe design in 20 years.

IBM will begin shipping the zEnterprise to customers on Sept. 10.

IBM's technology development in Albany and in Dutchess County is one of the reasons why GlobalFoundries is building a $4.6 billion computer chip factory in Saratoga County. The company, a spinoff of Advanced Micro Devices, works closely with IBM on technology development both at UAlbany and at the chip fab in East Fishkill.

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