Cell that should achieve 1 PetaFlop of
sustained performance (about 1.4
Petaflop peak performance),” says
Hofstee. (This is the Roadrunner
Top-side and bottom-side
view of the Sony/IBM/Toshiba
Cell chip in its housing.
How Cell Technology
is Catapulting Higher
“Because Sony Computer
Entertainment, Inc. (SCEI), allows people to install the open source Linux
operating system on the Playstation 3,
many students already have easy
access to a programmable Cell/B.E.
based platform,” says Hofstee.
This Linux environment is the
same on all Cell/B.E. based blades and
systems up to and including the
Roadrunner, according to Hofstee.
College and university students
from 25 countries recently competed
for monetary awards for the “most
innovative” application programming
based on the Cell chip, according to
IBM media information.
The 2007 competitions (the
inaugurals) were held from February
through July, with the winners being
announced around September 5th. In
addition to the educational opportunities and experiences for students
globally, the contest provides IBM
with an on-going source of new
application ideas for its new chip.
With the aid of IBM, MIT has
recently finished teaching its first
course based on the Cell chip. During
the four-week course, students
designed projects to run on the PS3
using “open standards” software,
according to IBM.
The course applied the Cell inside
the PS3 to an introduction to parallel
programming (programming for
multicore chips, of which the Cell is an
example). Students formed groups to
develop their applications, using the
Cell SDK (development kit) from
IBM’s developer Works.
In the meantime, the Budapest
Polytechnic Institution is starting a Cell
Broadband Engine course this fall that
will count towards a Bachelor of Science
in Computer Science and Engineering,
according to IBM media relations.
Think about a future with
intelligent clothing, glasses,
and watches that work
together via PANs (Personal
Area Networks), to perform all
the functions you do with
a cell phone and other
People can embed
intelligent buildings with Cell
chips to amp up processing
for environmental controls,
communications between the
home and homeowner, and
appliances through sensors, monitors,
and body-worn devices.
The Cell chip can enable intelligence everywhere, inside and out.
Everything built today as separately
functioning devices and applications
can share intelligence to improve the
performance of each.
The Cell has applications in
HDTV sets and Internet access
The Cell/B.E. is central to several
course house a version of the Cell
chip],” says Hofstee.
1) The University of Washington
held a workshop this August that
was dedicated to the use of Cell/B.E.
for medical imaging applications,
according to Peter Hofstee, STG,
Technology Development DE,
Architect, STI Design Center,
IBM. “Also, of course, we continue
to work on image rendering,”
4) “While perhaps not research,”
comments Hofstee, “an interesting
commercial application of the
Cell/B.E. is a tool for making the
masks to build chips (developed by
Mentor Graphics and Mercury
Computer). This tool will help us
build next-generation processors
and other chips.”
2) In August, IBM “showed off” its
Cell-based Interactive Ray Tracer
(“iRT”) at the SIGGRAPH (Special
Interest Group on Graphics and
Interactive Techniques) conference,
according to Hofstee. The iRT is a
“scalable, ray-tracing engine” with
interactive frame rates up to HDTV
resolutions thanks to clustering multiple Cell processors, according to IBM.
5) Many Universities use Cell/B.E.-based blade centers for application
development, as well as research. The
Boston University, for example, will
use it to research “fragment-based
drug design”, according to Hofstee.
“Others will use it for research related
to game development, virtual
world technologies, or new image
compression schemes, just to name
a few,” he adds.
3) “The folding@home project at
Stanford is getting most of its
performance on protein folding
from contributing PLAYSTATION 3
systems [to its clusters; these of
6) A broader focus of research is to
make parallel programming for the
Cell — as well as hybrid and multicore
systems — easier for programmers,
according to IBM’s Hofstee.
September 2007 69