IBM is set to launch its long anticipated Power 7 processor today, in hopes of keeping a competitive edge against main competitors in the Unix server business Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard.

The new Power 7 CPU can have up to eight cores capable of running four threads each, virtually turning a single processor into a 32-core chip. This compares favorably against any current generation Intel or AMD server-level product. The Power 7 processor is manufactured on a 45nm process, will come in four, six and 8-core varieties, and use three levels of cache, a 32kb per core L1 cache, 256kB per core L2, and a 32MB L3 cache shared by all cores. The Wall Street Journal estimates that sales for Unix servers dedicated to cancer research, financial institution analytics and electrical grid management amount to about $14 billion per year.

In addition to the new IBM Power 700 servers being launched today, the Power 7 processor will be at the heart of the Blue Waters petascale supercomputer project that is expected to be completed in 2011 using no less than 25,000 eight-core Power 7 CPUs running at 4.0 GHz, that's about 200,000 logical cores.