RealWorldTech: For more than 40 years, competition in the computer industry has been characterized as a game of leapfrog. Major new systems take years to conceive, design, verify and put into production, while at the same time the basic electronic technology underlying computers has improved in performance and dropped in cost exponentially. Because the product cycles of different vendors are often out of phase, it is common for the performance lead to exchange hands whenever new systems are introduced. This was the case in mid-2003 when Intel introduced the Madison 6M version of the Itanium 2 processor, which quickly took the lead in most commercial and technical computing. The wheel turned quite convincingly a year later when IBM introduced its POWER5 processor. What was originally represented as basically a POWER4+ augmented with simultaneous multithreading (SMT) capabilities turned out to be effectively a top to bottom redesign with substantial improvements in both the processor and system level architecture.
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