IBM has launched its latest Power7 processor, adding more cores and improved multithreading capabilities to boost the performance of its servers.

The Power7 chip has eight cores, with each core able to run four threads, IBM said. A Power7 chip can run 32 tasks simultaneously, which is quadruple the number of cores on the older Power6 chip. The Power7 will also run up to eight times more threads than Power6 cores.

The new chip also has TurboCore technology, which allows customers to crank up the speed of active cores for performance gains. The technology also puts memory and bandwidth from eight cores behind the four active cores to drive up the performance gains per core.

The company also launched four Power7-based servers. IBM Power 780 and Power 770 high-end servers are based on modular designs and come with up to 64 Power7 cores. The IBM Power 755 will support up to 32 Power7 cores. The company also launched the 750 Express server. The Power 750 Express and 755 will ship on Feb. 19, while the Power 770 and 780 will become available on 16 March.

In addition to boosting performance, the Power7 servers can save more energy, IBM said. A technology called Unique Intelligent Energy allows parts of a system to be switched off to reduce power drawn. The technology also allows the processor clock speed to be cranked down on a single server or across a pool of multiple servers, which can reduce power consumed.

IBM did not respond to immediate requests for comment on server pricing.

The chip is aimed at industries that require servers with high up time, such as the financial or electric industries, IBM said. The chip is designed for Internet, database or analytical workloads that process a large number of concurrent transactions, the company said.

IBM's Power7 launch could set off a new battle in the high-end microprocessor market where it competes with companies like Intel, which offers the Itanium chip, and Sun Microsystems, which offers the Sparc chip. Intel has just released its own high-end Itanium chip, codenamed Tukwila.

During the third quarter of 2009, IBM was the leader in server revenue with 31.8 percent market share, with HP in a close second with a 30.9 percent market share.