13 February 2005, 15:39 by mark hoekstra

Cell: supercomputer on a chip?

Last week, at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), IBM, Sony & Toshiba got into details of their jointly developed microprocessor code-named Cell.

Look! eight cores!

Among the highlights of Cell released:

* Cell is a breakthrough architectural design—featuring eight synergistic processors and top clock speeds of greater than 4 GHz (as measured during initial hardware testing)

  • Cell is a multicore chip capable of massive floating point processing
  • Cell is OS neutral and supports multiple operating systems simultaneously

...and some numbers

  • Each Cell processor contains 8 Synergistic Processing Units and a single 64-bit Power Architecture Unit (All are RISC designs with SIMD)
  • Operates at >4GHz and capable of >256GFLOPS
  • 256KB Local Storage per SPU and 512KB L2 Cache (2.5MB total)
  • 128+ concurrent transactions to memory per processor
  • High-speed internal element interconnect performing at 96B/cycle
  • 234 million transistors
  • Prototype die size of 221mm^2
  • Fabricated with 90nm SOI process technology

Weeeeell, that sounds good, doesn’t it?

IBM and Sony have created high expectations in the platform by stressing that a one-rack server equipped with a Cell processor system will reach a performance of 16 TFlops – a rating that would put such a system into sixth place of the current Top 500 supercomputer ranking.

Look! eight cores!

Time to do play it down a little, don’t you think?

Over at Gizmodo, there’s a great sum-up… 7 Myths of the New Cell Processor :-)

Now let’s wait till we actually see a demo of the PS3 at the E3...

useful links:

Dissection of the Cell over at Arstechnica
...and part II
some more details
Playstation 3 at Wikipedia

BTW, did I mention it has eight cores?

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