New Chip to Challenge Intel

Wired News reports that IBM, Sony & Toshiba are working on a NON x86 Architecture compatible processor with some rather exciting aims, to run at 4GHz, and contain 234 million transistors.

Code named Cell, it is expected to be used the Sony's next-generation Playstation, Toshiba's high-end televisions, and an IBM workstation.

The points that make it interesting are the code name - Cell, which suggest to me that they might have designed it to become a cell in a larger multi-processor system. Within the chip, it includes a PowerPC core, and eight "synergistic" processing centres, allowing the chip to simultaneously carry out 10 instruction sequences. The chip will have separate interfaces for communicating with system memory and with other CPUs.

This is confirmed by a report at Nikush.com that "it's widely expected that the PlayStation 3 could boast as many as four Cell chips, which would give a theoretical CPU performance of over 1,000 billion gigaflops, or one teraflop - a very theoretical measure, admittedly, but still enough to earn the PS3 a place on the supercomputer list."

They're also talking about virtualisation technology to allow them to run multiple operating systems at the same time on one system. The only OS they've mentioned is Linux.

This is exciting... A multi-core CPU, that could be built into multi-processor systems, with virtualisation technology. It won't be a niche, low volume processor (because Sony are involved), and it could form the basis for more wide-scale distributed computing infrastructure, running Linux.

Similar concepts are discussed by Azul Systems for J2EE/Java applications in the Enterprise. They talk about Network Attached Processing, and Unbounded Compute.

Sources: Wired News: New Chip to Challenge Intel Nikush
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