IBM Opens Cell Processor

MacRumors

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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eeTimes is reporting that IBM and its partners are planning on opening the upcoming Cell processor's architecture and provide software development libraries in an effort to increase adoption of the new architecture.

The Cell processor will be used in Sony's upcoming Playstation 3. It was announced in February by IBM, Sony and Toshiba and has always expected to be used in a broad range of applications - including video processing, medical imaging and high-performance computing.

There is no direct link to Apple, but with IBM's involvement, speculation abounds.
 

tazznb

macrumors regular
Jul 22, 2002
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New Jersey
Hopeful

I really hope Apple jumps on this technology.

Hopefully IBM won't give processor speeds promised to Apple, renig, and then give it to game console makers.

BTW: Until we hear it directly from the horse's mouth NOBODY HERE KNOWS if the chips in the Xbox 360 were intended for Apple's computers.

If there is undeniable proof, and not hearsay please post it. :(
 

thedoc1111

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Aug 13, 2003
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Anyone who thinks the cell will be a G6 is completely wrong - it is like saying that because my NVidia 6800 is extremely powerful, I should replace my CPU with one of them.

The cell is extremely good at doing specific types of calculation, but appalling for running the code that we rely on in complicated Operating Systems and Applications.

However, the argument above does make sense if you swap out replace for augment - I wish Apple would ship computers with an accessory Cell processor to handle CPU intensive repetitive tasks such as H.264 decoding/encoding. We'll have to wait and see, though.
 

amholl

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Dec 21, 2004
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This CANNOT BE A G6!!!! OMG weve said it a million times!

Anyway, the best use for this chip, as it is a MULTIMEDIA CHIP AND IS NOT SUITABLE FOR NORMAL COMPUTING, is to be a co-proc and do something like offload H.264 tasks or video and rendering, but not have it be THE proc
 

poundsmack

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Apr 28, 2005
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what is there was a central processor, say like a G5, and them many CELL processors on the board to take over the tasks.
 

iJaz

macrumors 6502a
Dec 16, 2004
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Hmm, Cell chips, Intel rumors, new announced Xbox tripple core chips...
This can only mean Powerbook G5 on Tuesday! :p
 

blitzkrieg79

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Mar 9, 2005
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Hmmmmmmmm, isn't it funny how IBM "opened up" the CELL technology to others after the weekends Apple and Intel speculations?

Anyway I do hope that CELL-like (I say CELL-like because the PS3 CELL is not suited for regular computing BUT it does have potential to be one)...
Anyway, CELL technology seems to be versatile and adaptable to specific users needs, at least thats what I got from reading all the articles I found so far...

Its floating performance seems to be very good, integer performance can be improved by changing the PPE unit into something such as a current G5, I know the size of such a chip would be big but it wouldnt be so much bigger than current two 970fxs, and with performance gains of the CELL (especially in the floating point arena, and isn't that what Apple all those multimedia apps require?) I could care less about MS word and such, it already ran good enough on 1GHZ machines so integer performance doesnt matter a whole lot to me...
Apple really wouldnt have to use Dual configurations in PowerMacs, maybe create an Xstation for the multiprocessor configurations and thats it...

EDIT: And Cell is a specialized processor but not as specialized as lets say a GPU, CELL is capable of running regular routines too, anyway, like I said, just change the PPE of the CELL to a Power4-Power5 derivative, and as far as programming goes, you can't really expect programming to stay still when processor technology evolves, programming has to evolve too, anyway, Apple likes giant leaps and this would definately be one giant leap...
 

Sharewaredemon

macrumors 68000
May 31, 2004
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amholl said:
This CANNOT BE A G6!!!! OMG weve said it a million times!

Anyway, the best use for this chip, as it is a MULTIMEDIA CHIP AND IS NOT SUITABLE FOR NORMAL COMPUTING, is to be a co-proc and do something like offload H.264 tasks or video and rendering, but not have it be THE proc
I just hope a computer comes out like what you have described for when I'm about to graduate (3 years) because that would be extremely useful for video editing.
 

pgwalsh

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Jun 21, 2002
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thedoc1111 said:
I wish Apple would ship computers with an accessory Cell processor to handle CPU intensive repetitive tasks such as H.264 decoding/encoding. We'll have to wait and see, though.
That would be interesting. I wonder how feasable that would be. Dual Processor G5 PowerMac with an additional cell processor for use with FCP and Logic.. Perhaps an add in PCI card with two cells for offloading. Would that even be possible? I suppose you'd have to rewrite your applications to utilize this applicaiton, but that would pretty slick.
 

enygma

macrumors newbie
Nov 29, 2004
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thedoc1111 said:
Anyone who thinks the cell will be a G6 is completely wrong - it is like saying that because my NVidia 6800 is extremely powerful, I should replace my CPU with one of them.
Or not... considering sony saw it fit to include a GPU as well in their PS3 outside of the Cell processor. Cell is capable of general purpose computing, and IBM even goes and brags that they have used multiple operating systems on Cell. Heck, both sony and IBM do. At the Game Developers Conference, it was something they kind of highlighted on with 2 of their lectures that I had attended. The Cell processor is a capable processor. It is also a very powerful processor, and nowhere near what I would consider comparing to a GPU. I would compare it more to a dual core Opteron running at 3.2GHz... only this Opteron seems to have 8 additional AthlonXP processors around it(The SPEs) running at the same clock speed, all with their own cache and DMA channels, while at the same time, be able to punch the ammount of memory through per second that only 4 to 5 Opterons operating in NUMA would be able to do... in one chip.
 

thedoc1111

macrumors regular
Aug 13, 2003
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pgwalsh said:
Perhaps an add in PCI card with two cells for offloading. Would that even be possible?
Almost there, but no cigar.

PCI does not have the bandwidth required, but PCI Express would, especially as PCI Express can be easily scaled, from a 1x port (for peripheral cards) to a 16x port (currently for graphics cards). A Cell could easily run on one of these cards, given that they supply up to 75W of power.

All you would need is tie-ins from the OS, which Apple could probably code in for 10.5 or a major update for 10.4

The only worry would be that this extra code could lead to security vulnerabilities...
 

pgwalsh

macrumors 68000
Jun 21, 2002
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enygma said:
Or not... considering sony saw it fit to include a GPU as well in their PS3 outside of the Cell processor. Cell is capable of general purpose computing, and IBM even goes and brags that they have used multiple operating systems on Cell.
I've read that, but I also read that they can be programmed through software to perform specific tasks. I would guess you could use it for compression or processing filters etc??
 

thedoc1111

macrumors regular
Aug 13, 2003
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enygma said:
Or not... considering sony saw it fit to include a GPU as well in their PS3 outside of the Cell processor. Cell is capable of general purpose computing, and IBM even goes and brags that they have used multiple operating systems on Cell. Heck, both sony and IBM do. At the Game Developers Conference, it was something they kind of highlighted on with 2 of their lectures that I had attended. The Cell processor is a capable processor. It is also a very powerful processor, and nowhere near what I would consider comparing to a GPU. I would compare it more to a dual core Opteron running at 3.2GHz... only this Opteron seems to have 8 additional AthlonXP processors around it(The SPEs) running at the same clock speed, all with their own cache and DMA channels, while at the same time, be able to punch the ammount of memory through per second that only 4 to 5 Opterons operating in NUMA would be able to do... in one chip.
Cell is capable of general purpose computing - but MUCH slower than our current designs. It's advantage is that, with specially optimised code it can run much faster, and cooler and cheaper, but only for vector code.

Games consoles (with the single exception of the original XBox) have always been run on customised, special purpose chips, and the PS range have always run on chips that specialise in vector processing. This is fine in game design, as game engines have traditionally been quite small and easily optimised, but not up to running bulky stuff like Word v.X

Edit: One final issue - all that DMA everywhere does make me extremely concerned for the security of these chips. I have heard that much of the processor's controllers is written in software reather than burned into the ASIC (which is what makes this specs release extremely important, btw) but still if a vulnerability exists within the silicon it could give the cell a 'not-production-ready' image for the high end market
 

enygma

macrumors newbie
Nov 29, 2004
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pgwalsh said:
I've read that, but I also read that they can be programmed through software to perform specific tasks. That means you could use it as a dedicated processor for specific tasks.
This wouldn't surprise me as I believe they adopted some of the ideas used in their Blue Gene high performance clusters, which are reprogrammable hardware.
 

enygma

macrumors newbie
Nov 29, 2004
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thedoc1111 said:
Cell is capable of general purpose computing - but MUCH slower than our current designs. It's advantage is that, with specially optimised code it can run much faster, and cooler and cheaper, but only for vector code.
Link? Last bit of vector code I recall in use was for the VU0 and VU1 processors in the PS2. The standard processor in the PS2 used the MIPS architecture. Unfortunately, VU0 and VU1 had to be utilized using assembly, while Cell has been designed to be a much easier programming target using C++.
 

pawnstar

macrumors member
Jan 11, 2004
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London
modernpixel said:
I don't think the Cell is quite so limited. I've read through this fantastic explanation:

http://www.blachford.info/computer/Cells/Cell1.html

It's the future of CPUs, Apple would be foolish not to work with IBM to modify it to make the fastest freakin' Mac ever (or PC for that matter.)

Screw the talks with Intel, they've already got an "in" to the next best thing.

Joe
interesting link dude, cheers :)
 

poundsmack

macrumors 6502
Apr 28, 2005
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i dont think anyone of us can predict what is going to happen with this. but i can say this. only good will come out of it.