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IBM Entertainment Games Hardware

IBM Adds Videogame Console Chips to Mainframes 103

GoIBMPS3 writes "Soon the powerful 'Cell' microprocessor that fuels Sony's PlayStation 3 console will be available in IBM mainframe computers. The intent is to allow high-performance machines to run complex online games and virtual worlds. 'The integration initially will be accomplished by networking the mainframe with IBM's Cell blades, but eventually the Cells will be plugged more directly into the mainframes via PCI adapter cards, IBM said. It's the latest twist in IBM's years-long effort to keep mainframes not only relevant but also cutting-edge. IBM is touting the partnership as an example of hybrid computing--a trend sweeping the high-performance computing industry as companies augment general-purpose servers with special-purpose chips that to accelerate particular tasks.'"
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IBM Adds Videogame Console Chips to Mainframes

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  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Thursday April 26, 2007 @01:59PM (#18888011)
    Let's face it, nobody buys a mainframe unless they've already got a very specific use planned for it. It's not like an x86 server where it's cheap enough that you might think "We'll use it for X, but even if we don't, we'll use it for Y".

    And the Cell isn't really intended for general-purpose use - it's far more appropriate to use it in a system where the code has been written and designed specifically for it.

    What better market than one which is composed almost entirely of people with reasonably specific, defined needs?
  • You can create new servers on the fly,
    Really high performance
    Easily scalable,
    and virtual worlds will never go down for any reason outside the code.
    To try and replicate those efforts on PC servers is a waste of money.

    Properly done, those issues that arise in many MMORPGs when a large percentage of their population goes to on area for an event....Blizzard I'm looking at you.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Thursday April 26, 2007 @02:12PM (#18888209)
    IBM isn't the first or last to come up with the idea behind the CELL processor. With the advent of programmable shaders, the GPU industry was headed that way like a freight train. When people started using these highly pipelined, highly parallel SIMD stream processors that we know as GPUs to do supercomputing, people with a clue took notice and decided that it would be sensible to strip out the video components and generalize the compute engine. However, this kind of compute engine only works well for stream processing, requiring some kind of general-purpose CPU to supervise. And this is exactly what the CELL processor is: A PowerPC supervising the operation of an array of stream processors.

    So, while the CELL is inspired by GPU design, I think it would be more appropriate to say that CELL is a supercomputing architecture that, being what it is, is also highly suitable for graphics applications. As such, I think what the slashdot article says is silly. What IBM is doing is putting a supercomputing architecture into a mainframe. This isn't weird. It's sensible and a wise move, technically and competitively.
  • by SnowZero ( 92219 ) on Thursday April 26, 2007 @02:41PM (#18888727)
    That's not a particularly accurate characterization. GPUs are very wide, shared memory multiprocessors, while the Cell is a somewhat wide local memory multiprocessor. That is why the Playstation still needs a GPU; The Cell isn't really the best type of processor for current graphics approaches. The Cell design was started quite some time ago (new CPU architectures are not designed overnight), so I don't think it would be accurate to say the Cell is inspired by modern GPU design. Rather, it would be more accurate to say both were inspired by DSPs, which have been used for signal processing tasks for decades.

    Also, I don't think I'd use the word "supercomputing" to describe the distributed signal processing for which GPUs are now being used. GPUs won't be used on "real" supercomputers until they decide to implement proper 64-bit IEEE 754 (floating point) support. In that sense, the Cell is more immediately useful for HPC, and along with IBMs presence in that area, you'll see a supercomputer using Cell chips first.
  • Sweeping New Trend (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Thursday April 26, 2007 @02:58PM (#18889049)
    trend sweeping the high-performance computing industry as companies augment general-purpose servers with special-purpose chips to accelerate particular tasks.

    As I recall my 286 had a Math Coprocessor.
    Years later I bought a hardware MPEG decoder card so that I could watch DVD's without skipping on my old Pentium ii.
    And over the last several years I've installed GPU boards to accelerate some particular video rendering tasks.

    Its nice to see the idea of special purpose chips for hardware acceleration is finally catching on in high performance computing.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Thursday April 26, 2007 @03:46PM (#18889883) Homepage Journal
    Faster than the PCI bus? Seems like they need another way to plug it into the mainframe.
  • by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Thursday April 26, 2007 @05:06PM (#18891183) Homepage Journal
    You can create new servers on the fly,
    Really high performance
    Easily scalable,
    and virtual worlds will never go down for any reason outside the code.

    Don't forget these added bonuses:

    So expensive you could buy an entire data center's worth of x86 servers instead of leasing a single mainframe for a year.
    Requires members of the dwindling cult of mainframe experts to administer.

Enzymes are things invented by biologists that explain things which otherwise require harder thinking. -- Jerome Lettvin