Cell Processor – Jointly Developed by Sony, Toshiba and Ibm
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Cell is a microprocessor jointly developed by Sony, Toshiba and IBM. The Cell architecture is intended to be scalable through the use of vector processing. The first major commercial application of Cell is in Sonys upcoming PlayStation 3 game console. In 2000, Sony Inc., Toshiba Corp., and IBM formed an alliance (“STI”) to design and build the processor. The STI Design Center in Austin, Texas opened in March 2001. The Cell was designed over a period of four years, using enhanced versions of the design tools for the POWER4 processor. Over 400 engineers from the three companies worked together in Austin, with critical support from eleven of IBM’s design centers.

Although it’s been primarily touted as the technology for the PlayStation 3, Cell is designed for much more. Sony and Toshiba, both being major electronics manufacturers buy in all manner of different components. One of the reasons for Cells development is they want to save costs by building their own components. Next generation consumer technologies such as Blue-ray, HDTV, HD Camcorders and of course the PS3 will all require a very high level of computing power and they are going to need the chips to provide it. Cell will be used for all of these and more. IBM will also be using the chips in servers. The partners can also sell the chips to 3rd party manufacturers.

The Cell architecture is like nothing we have ever seen in commodity microprocessors, it is closer in design to multiprocessor vector supercomputers. The Cell developers have taken this kind of technology and for the first time are bringing it to your home. The aim is produce a low cost system with a massive increase in compute performance over existing systems. Putting such an architecture on a single chip is a huge, complex project, no other manufacturer appears to have even attempted to do anything this ambitious to date.

It is an architecture for high performance distributed computing. It is comprised of hardware and software Cells, software Cells consist of data and programs, these are sent out to the hardware Cells where they are computed, the results are then returned. This architecture is not fixed, if you have a computer, PS3 and HDTV that have Cell processors they can co-operate on problems. According to IBM the Cell performs 10x faster than existing CPUs on many applications. This may sound ludicrous but GPU’s (Graphical Processors Units) already deliver similar or even higher sustained performance in many non-graphical applications. The technology in the Cell is similar to that in GPU’s so such high performance is certainly well within the realm of possibilities. The big difference is though that Cell is a lot more general purpose so can be usable for a wider variety of tasks.

CELL Basics
Members of the CELL processor family share basic building blocks, and depending on the requirement of the application, specific versions of the CELL processor can be quickly configured and manufactured to meet that need. The basic building blocks shared by members of the CELL family of processor are the following:

The PowerPC Processing Element (PPE)
The Synergistic Processing Element (SPE)
The L2 Cache
The internal Element Interconnect Bus (EIB)
The shared Memory Interface Controller (MIC) and
The Flex IO interface
While the Cell chip can have a number of different configurations, the basic configuration is composed of one “Power Processor Element” (“PPE”), and multiple “Synergistic Processing Elements” (“SPE”). The PPE’s and SPE’s are linked together by an internal high-speed bus dubbed “Element Interconnect Bus” (“EIB”). Due to the nature of its applications, Cell is optimized towards single precision floating point computation though it can still perform more general purpose computing tasks due to its PPE.

The final specifications havent been given out yet but this is what we know so far:
Capable of running at speeds beyond 4 GHz.
Memory bandwidth: 25.6 GBytes per second.
I/O bandwidth: 76.8 GBytes per second.
256 GFLOPS (Single precision at 4 GHz).
256 GOPS (Integer at 4 GHz).

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