The IBM POWER8 Review: Challenging the Intel Xeonby Johan De Gelas on November 6, 2015 8:00 AM EST
The L4-cache and Memory Subsystem
Each POWER8 memory controller has access to four "Custom DIMMs" or CDIMMs. Each CDIMMs is in fact a "Centaur" chip and 40 to 80 DRAM chips. The Centaur chip contains the DDR3 interfaces, the memory management logic and a 16 MB L4-cache.
The 16 MB L4-cache is eDRAM technology like the on-die L3-cache. Let us see how the CDIMMs look in reality.
Considering that 4Gb DRAM chips were available in mid 2013, the 1600 MHz 2Gb DRAM chips used here look a bit outdated. Otherwise the (much) more expensive 64GB CDIMMs use the current 4Gb DRAM chips. The S822L has 16 slots and can thus use up to 1TB (64GB x 16) in DIMMs.
Considering that many Xeon E5 servers are limited to 768 GB, 1 TB is more than competitive. Some Xeon E5 servers can reach 1.5 TB with 64 GB LR-DIMMs but not every server supports this rather expensive memory technology. It is very easy to service the CDIMMs: a gentle push on the two sides will allow you to slide them out. The black pieces of plastic between the CDIMMS are just place-holders that protect the underlying memory slots. For our testing we had CDIMMs installed in 8 of our system's 16 slots.
The Centaur chip acts as a 16MB L4-cache to save memory accesses and thus energy, but it needs quite a bit of power (10-20 W) itself and as a result is covered by heatsink. CDIMMs have ECC enabled (8+1 for ECC) and have also an extra spare DRAM chip. As result, a CDIMM has 10 DRAM chips while offering capacity of 8 chips.
That makes the DRAM subsystem of the S822L much more similar to the E7 memory subsystem with the "Scalable memory interconnect" and "Jordan Creek" memory buffer technology than to the typical Xeon E5 servers.