At the ongoing "Grid World 2006" event, an expo on grid computing technologies, IBM Japan, Ltd. has presented the "Cell Broadband Engine (BE)," its microprocessor jointly developed with IBM Corp., the Sony Group and Toshiba Corp. The company demonstrated the Cell's performance comparisons with Apple Computer Inc.'s "Apple PowerMac G5" microprocessor for PCs and sample applications including the Cell mounted on a blade server board.
Including floating point calculation, IBM Japan demonstrated the Cell's 3D video rendering speed in comparison with the G5 and showed the Cell's processing is about 35 times faster than the 2 GHz dual-core G5. The company also displayed a sample of its blade server to be released in the third quarter of 2006, featuring the Cell BE on its blade, although it is currently under discussion whether it will launch this blade server as a standard model for general users. "To draw the Cell's ability as much as possible, we need ingenuities for programming as well. At the current state, we are considering releasing the product for specific users," said a company spokesperson. The specific users are, for example, venders of servers to deliver broadband contents, medical equipment manufacturers handling high-resolution images, and meteorologic and academic experts who wish to implement large-scale science-technologic calculations.
IBM Japan brought the Cell to the expo because "The Cell uses a technology similar to grid computing in the way of a CPU core allotting computing to the eight remaining SPEs (signal processing elements) and make them perform processing in parallel."
The Cell's patent application submitted by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. in 2002 describes a design of the Cell microprocessors communicating each other via networks and using each other's computing resources. Commenting on this, IBM Japan said, "We have such use in our design concept, but this latest chip we are presenting does not support it. Its realization depends on our customers' needs."
Tetsuo Nozawa, Nikkei Electronics