'Cell' Processor Breaks Out of Gaming

For the first time, a vendor outside of the gaming industry has signed on to use the "Cell" processor architecture. Massachusetts based Mercury Computer Systems will integrate Cell into defense and life sciences products in collaboration with engineers from IBM's Engineering and Technology Services group.

IBM, Toshiba and Sony jointly developed Cell for placement in next-generation computing applications and consumer electronics. The processor has reached clock speeds exceeding 4GHz and will be used to power Sony's upcoming PlayStation 3 gaming console.

"The tremendous performance advantages afforded by the Cell processor will enable Mercury to address an even broader range of compute-intensive challenges for our customers," said Jay Bertelli, president and chief executive officer or Mercury Computer Systems.

Cell is designed with a multicore, multi-thread architecture, based on the 64-bit Power processor to achieve "massive" floating point operations.

Some other design aspects of the processor are: support for multiple operating systems to run simultaneously; high bus bandwidth to and from main memory and companion chips; an integrated on-chip I/O interface; real-time resource management capabilities; and intellectual property (IP) protection.

Stacey Quandt, a Principal Analyst at Quandt Analytics, explained why the wider market outside of gaming would be interested in adopting Cell.

"The graphic-intensive requirements of the gaming industry are similar to the computational requirements of medical imaging, seismic analysis, and
telecommunications service providers," Quandt said. "The partnership between Mercury Computer Systems and IBM is a good first step in delivering the performance and graphical capabilities of cell technologies to vertical market segments such as aerospace, defense telecommunications, life sciences, energy, and electronics manufacturing."

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