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Friday, September 7, 2012

Processor Architecture - a laymans view of the religious war

Just read, a for once, unbiased review from the Register on IBM's R&D investment in chip architecture:

Definitely worth a read for the more geeky amongst us, who find micro engineering just a little bit cool.

Then I read the blog comments and came down of my geeky high, from all of the comments by people who just want to have a knock at IBM:

Now I can't claim to unbiased as Big Blue feeds my kids, but the level of vitriolic spewing on these blogs just shocked me...yes me a salesman of 17 years standing...How can people generate so much passion about the various pros and cons of chip architecture.  I know the guys in Fishkill and Poughkeepsie care, but I am sure they would not get 'biblical' on another approach.

A senior IBM exec said to me recently of IBM's chasing single thread clock speed that you can compare it with the airline industry and plane size Vs speed.  What is better Concorde or a 747?  One is designed to carry ~120 passengers very quickly the other is designed to carry ~500 a lot slower.  Both have there place as approaches (and yes I know Concorde is no longer in service).

Another saying I like about the mainframe is that "we worship different gods and speak in different tongues" never could this be more true than after reading the blog comments.

For all those x86 fans out there let me sum up the mainframe with a couple of anecdotes:

  • I know of a large retail bank that has 93% of it's business logic running on 4 mainframes that cost the bank 7% of it's IT budget.  The other 40,000 servers cost 93% of the IT budget to keep running!

  • I also know of a £1bn turnover retailer that runs its entire web front end on 4 IFL's (Linux engines on the mainframe).

So come on guys give IBM a break we have a very specialized market to service and we are spending hard cash to can that be a bad thing?

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