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Sony Ditching Cell Architecture For Next PlayStation? 276

RogueyWon writes "According to reports in Kotaku and Forbes, Sony is planning to ditch the Cell processor that powered the PlayStation 3 and may be planning to power the console's successor using a more conventional PC-like architecture provided by AMD. In the PS3's early years, Sony was keen to promote the benefits of its Cell processor, but the console's complicated architecture led to many studios complaining that it was difficult to develop for."
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Sony Ditching Cell Architecture For Next PlayStation?

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  • Doesn't matter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xaoslaad ( 590527 )
    Won't buy it. They screwed us with Linux on the PS3. Their consoles are done in this house.
    • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:07PM (#39211505)

      Insightful?! Come on, /. How does this user's gaming/buying preference and overall irrational heated opinion of a consumer electronics company add any insight whatsoever to the fact that said company is opting to use an AMD chip in their next product?
      Please try your best to stop continuing to cheapen the already out-dated rating system as well as feeding blatantly obvious karma whores. Shameful.

      • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Interesting)

        by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:31PM (#39211919) Homepage

        There's nothing shameful about the /. masses agreeing that Sony abuses its customer base. Perhaps what is truly insightful is how quickly the comment leapt up to +5 and stayed there, implying that far more people agree than disagree.

        If you look to /. for balanced, impartial fact-based discourse... keep looking! And if you ever find such an impossible thing, do let us know.

    • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:07PM (#39211509)

      Won't buy it. They screwed us with Linux on the PS3. Their consoles are done in this house.

      You seriously believe people who wanted to use Linux on the PS3 are a significant market for Sony. And that they really care about what you have to say about that. How adorable.

      • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AJH16 ( 940784 ) <aj&gccafe,com> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:10PM (#39211579) Homepage

        It is more a matter of principal. Personally I only briefly used Linux on the PS3, but the fact they removed the option after promising people it would be there as a selling point is just dishonest business. I don't like doing business with dishonest people. The only games I have bought for PS3 since then are the console exclusives. I don't know yet if I will bother with a PS4, but if I don't, it will be solely because of the Linux thing even though I didn't use it.

        • by Tarlus ( 1000874 )

          I don't know yet if I will bother with a PS4, but if I don't, it will be solely because of the Linux thing even though I didn't use it.

          For being a matter of principal, you don't seem to be fully adherent to it...

          • by AJH16 ( 940784 )

            The principle is that in so far as I can avoid it without hurting others I do. I want to support a game studio that makes a quality game, the fact it is only on a platform that I don't like the maker of is secondary to supporting the quality work of an innocent third party. It used to be my platform of choice that I purchased all my games on, but I have switched to PC where available or XBox 360 when not. I'd say that is the best I can do in terms of sticking it to Sony's Playstation group while not hurt

            • It's a gaming console in an industry with lots of competition, you claim it is a matter of principal yet you are still considering PS4. Either your principals mean very little to you or you are just posturing.
              • by AJH16 ( 940784 )

                Let me clarify it another way. I was simply stating that I was not personally harmed by the removal of other os, however as a matter of principal, I dislike it when a company says they will provide something and then recants. It was perhaps not that grand of an issue, and thus doesn't merit all that strong of a response, but I altered my buying habits out of principal regardless of my personally being impacted. I would rather do business with a company that I can trust than one I can't and my response is

          • by AJH16 ( 940784 )

            Oh sorry, about the console itself. I am not one to nay say a platform until I see it. If they make a compelling enough deal, and if they are selling at a loss, then I would not be opposed to purchasing one to tinker with. Most of their profits come from games and if I don't buy games on their platform, they don't make much money. I'm a technologist. I get technology to toy with it and see what it can do, even if I don't get games for it as my platform of choice.

        • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:52PM (#39213193) Homepage

          The only games I have bought for PS3 since then are the console exclusives.

          I sympathised with you up to that point; then I realised that this is the same weak-willed, half-baked, not-putting-one's-money-where-one's-mouth-is posts about "principles" or "boycotts" that appear endlessly on Slashdot and aren't worth the hard drive space they're stored on.

          Your stern-willed resolve to stand up for your vaunted "principles" doesn't extend past foregoing the game of the month if it's only available on the PS3? Don't make me laugh.

          I think it's pretty clear why Sony aren't too concerned, when of even the tiny percentage that supposedly care about this sort of thing, most of them will rant endlessly about it, but give Sony their money when push comes to shove anyway.

          I don't know yet if I will bother with a PS4

          Such resolve!

          I'm sure you will though- it's been confirmed that "Call of Metal Gears of Modern Warfare 7" will be exclusive to the PS4 for at least 3 1/2 days after launch, and it would be unfair for you to have to forego your shiny toys for that long.

          Please do come back and post another wishy-washy diatribe about "principles" after you do so though.

      • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:21PM (#39211787)

        Maybe not, but they also gave the finger to universities using PS3 clusters []. The fact that Sony participated assisted said universities with setting up these clusters speaks volumes as to how ridiculously contradictory Sony's response was when they blocked OtherOS.

        These types of applications are what attracted me to the PS3, not because I necessarily wanted to do this myself, but the fact that the console was powerful and flexible enough to be used in this way was very attractive to me. Most people prefer having an option to having the option taken away out of nowhere.

        It's as if Sony gets a list of options and always picks the one that will most piss off their customers. They're sabotaging themselves...

        • You have a lot of things you can be angry at Sony at, but I doubt the universities cared about the removal. How many of them that were using PS3 clusters needed them to access the PSN or play the latest games? You could continue to use linux as long as you wanted if you didn't care about these features.

          • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:4, Interesting)

            by cbhacking ( 979169 ) <been_out_cruisin ... om ['yah' in gap> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:04PM (#39212453) Homepage Journal

            So, where were the universities going to get replacement hardware when their machines start breaking down? Newer consoles that come with the firmware update blocking Linux and can't be downgraded? PS3 Slim consoles that never had Linux at all (officially speaking; they can run it just fine in reality)?

            The only thing that stops me from hoping that Sony dies in a fire is the risk of what level of unethical behavior it will permit their direct competitors to stoop to, when there's one less alternative for people to switch to. I'm under no delusion that any megacorp is going to behave any more ethically than its bottom line dictates. The disgusting thing is that Sony can't even measure up to that.

            • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

              That's a baseless argument. Sony could have stopped production of the PS3 altogether, at any time. Unless the University has a contract which guarantees replacement parts, they are out of luck no matter what. That's just the way it is when you build a cluster out of non-commodity parts.

            • There's some truth to the breaking down issue. However, I would think the blame for that falls more in the hands of the universities for not planning ahead if they did have such issues. It's much the same as any piece of hardware. It's not evil to stop producing it. Yeah there were no more new units being made that could replace the ones they originally had. At least there were tens of millions of them out in the wild already. If they hadn't bought enough to last the life of their project prior to change, t

          • The problem lies in the fact that they can no longer replace the individual units if they fail, as new units come with the new firmware, so many were pretty much forced to abandon their development, as they were dealing with dozens of units that were running under load for long periods of time.
            • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

              That's just too bad. Sony could have stopped production of PS3's completely. That they produce a product with most of the same capabilities and the same name is immaterial.

        • The fact that Sony participated assisted said universities with setting up these clusters

          They did? Do you have a citation stating that Sony was helping set these clusters up?

          The earlier PS3s, all the way up until they introduced the Slim models (and possibly later), were sold by Sony as loss leaders... they intended to recoup that money selling games since they gets license money for every PS3 game produced. Therefore, intentionally selling PS3s in large quantities to places that weren't going to buy games would be just stupid.

          • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Informative)

            by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:06PM (#39212499)

            It's in my link.

            In Summer 2007, Dr. Gaurav Khanna, a professor in the Physics Department of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth independently built a message-passing based cluster using 8 PS3s running Fedora Linux. This cluster was built with support from Sony Computer Entertainment and was the first such cluster that generated published scientific results. Dubbed as the "PS3 Gravity Grid", this PS3 cluster performs astrophysical simulations of large supermassive black holes capturing smaller compact objects

        • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:41PM (#39213821)

          As someone who worked with a PS3 cluster, the removal other OS functionality did not impact me in the slightest. If you're using them for a cluster you aren't using them for gaming. If you're using them for a cluster you don't download the updates that have absolutely no impact on your console, which is all of them.

          What they did that impacted the PS3 cluster business was they took away the other OS option in future consoles, which makes sense since it was a waste of money on their part anyway, but that means there's no way to replace broken parts of the cluster. Though as it turns out, it wouldn't be worthwhile anyway, since GPU's do the number crunching better, and for less money.

          The Cell on clusters suffers the same problem it has in a console. It's not enough better than a CPU for the extra time needed to learn to use it properly. And it's not good enough to compete with a GPU for pure computing needs. It was an amusing project, and sure, once the cluster is running you want to churn through some data with it, but by the time they ditched the Other OS feature in software they were beyond viable to build new (since you couldn't get consoles that would do it).

          That doesn't mean it wasn't illegal to remove the other OS feature after the fact. It probably was on principle. But don't misrepresent who it mattered to. The fraction of a percent of people who ever actually used the other OS feature *and* games did get screwed, no doubt. But if you seriously used the OtherOS functionality you didn't use them as gaming machines at the same time. Remember a lot of people 'used' the other OS feature in the same way 90 million people 'use' google plus. And yes, that small collection of power users, and that larger but still small collection of pirates got screwed on the deal. That's why these things are illegal.

      • by AdamJS ( 2466928 )

        Significant not in number, but in the fact that they dismantled the console's security in less than a year of concentrated effort.

        Negligible in numbers, sure, but it destroyed the image of invulnerability and supreme competency they were trying to use.

      • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

        by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:46PM (#39212145) Homepage

        PS3 Clusters [] were already covered here many years ago, where Sony donated PS3 consoles specifically for use as cluster nodes using OtherOS. It was cheap promotion for them, which most assuredly led to a few sales of multiple consoles to curious geeks. I don't know how many "a few sales" actually turned out to be, but I'd safely guesstimate 10,000 units at the least. Enough to spark class-action lawsuits that were clumsily thrown out of court, after which Sony updated its EULA to remove users' right to sue the company [].

        So yes, people wanted to use Linux on the PS3, which Sony initially embraced with open arms. Then they turned around and legally told all these users to fuck off and die. Perhaps I'm a bit too zen for the average sucker, but if the only way you (Sony) can stop people from suing you is by forcing them to digitally sign a contact with a covenant not to sue, I'd say you fail at business. It's kind of like when little kids say "I can hit you, but the rule is you can't hit me back"... those little fuckers need to be curb stomped, and so does Sony.

    • by errandum ( 2014454 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:10PM (#39211577)

      Market research clearly supports your theory that removing linux had any effect whatsoever in how well it performed.

      No, really, it did! It shows that all the 5 people that used that feature stopped buying sony! That'll show them!!!

      • by Tsingi ( 870990 )

        Market research clearly supports your theory that removing linux had any effect whatsoever in how well it performed.

        No, really, it did! It shows that all the 5 people that used that feature stopped buying sony! That'll show them!!!

        Are you including the government agencies and universities using them as linux cluster nodes? You're a fucking idiot.

      • by Jeng ( 926980 )

        We'll when just one of those customers buys around 1500 PS3's that is one hell of a customer to lose.

    • What's the alternative? XBox is obviously out if you're concerned with a parent company's treatment of the Linux user base. Wii doesn't seem to be considered a competing platform to XBox or PS3. i.e., different target audience. Linux PC gaming doesn't seem to be taking off too fast either due to Windows applications barrier to entry. ???

    • Oh please no one actually cared about that feature till it was gone. Heck, the vast majority never even knew you could do it.
  • by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @01:47PM (#39211193) Journal

    We all know Sony will just remove the cell processor functionality in a few updates time.

  • I can practically hear game programmers everywhere cheering.

    • If game programmers dislike the Cell, why can't they just convince their bosses to target their next project at PC and Xbox 360 instead of PS3 and Xbox 360?
      • by Immostlyharmless ( 1311531 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @01:52PM (#39211255)

        If game programmers dislike the Cell, why can't they just convince their bosses to target their next project at PC and Xbox 360 instead of PS3 and Xbox 360?


      • Most of the time they do. A lot of developers just went XBox, XBox first, or dual release with the PS3 going out "however the hell it turns out I won’t bother optimize for that mess".

        THAT backlash, plus the fact that all that amazing specialized R&D resulted in a chip that just got outperformed by an off the shelf Intel CPU (a year before the PS3 ended launching) likely made Sony realize it was a waste of time to keep pushing proprietary CPU architectures.

      • Re:Why not PC + 360? (Score:5, Informative)

        by uigrad_2000 ( 398500 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:08PM (#39211537) Homepage Journal

        As a game developer who has made a game for the 360 and PS3, I can tell you that my biggest complaints about the ps3 were the memory limitations (cpu and gpu memory is separated), the horrible software for the devkits, and the devkits themselves, which suck so much power that they require you to run air conditioning even in the winter.

        The main difference that you hit when making a cross-platform title is DirectX (d3d) versus OpenGL ES. Those libraries need to understand the lowlying architecture, but they pretty much take care of everything for the developer.

        • Re:Why not PC + 360? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:43PM (#39212081)

          I'll join you on the Sony SDKs being horrible. I still think the SN debugger is the best debugger I've used for multithreaded debugging. I'd also venture that you weren't a particularly serious PS3 dev house if you were using Sony's GL implementation, we ditched that shit the second GCM became available.
          The Cell architecture itself isn't difficult to program for, Sony just screwed themselves by coming out a year later then the 360. The big issue is that developing parallel software on the 360 is in a homogeneous environment. Game devs (myself included) started building engines around those constraints. After we had 360 devkits for a year or so, Sony comes by with PS3s and they are different at a fundamental level. We already have over a year of engine design and development into the 360 and we have commitments on both consoles. Now what? You can't afford the time to throw it all out and re-design from the ground up. It also didn't help that Sony's SDK was completely in flux before the launch - and for some time after. The end result is any game that wasn't first party was a horrible compromise on the PS3 at first. As time went on we changed large parts of our engine to be more PS3 friendly and it helped quite a bit. It also didn't help that the PS3's GPU is about 15%-25% slower on average and that the OS takes up a bunch more memory then the 360's does.
          All in all, the PS3 was a clusterfuck for the first few years and still hasn't recovered.

        • Re:Why not PC + 360? (Score:5, Informative)

          by frinsore ( 153020 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:56PM (#39212323)

          While fitting the game into the local and main memory is a pain it can usually be mitigated by proper planning. Developing your memory footprint for PS3 can immediately be translated to the 360's unified memory but going the other way is a special hell. While it's true that some engines are main memory intensive that you have to resort to crazy tricks (like streaming your audio from local memory to main) in general it's not too bad as there aren't two different implementations.

          But going from 3 ppu cores to 2 ppu cores and 6 spus does cause a problem if you're anywhere near utilizing the CPUs. Generally it's easier to optimize the game until as much as possible runs on 2 ppu cores and specific tasks run on the spus (as the 360 gains the benefit from the optimizations too).

          It sounds like you haven't worked on the PS3 in a while. Sony has actually stepped up the game and the ps3 sdk actually surpasses the xdk in some regards. Most of the complaints I hear about the ps3 sdk are more related to windows oriented people not understanding the unix mindset. And the ps3 dev kits are now tiny and sleek and not the 2U heater units of old.

      • by AJH16 ( 940784 )

        Because developing for PC is even harder than Cell. Cell still has a known platform, where as PC opens up a whole new can of crazy. That said, I wish they would.

        • by Creepy ( 93888 )

          You're talking about two different things - developing for PC is hard because the hardware varies from person to person. Developing for Cell is hard is because you have to do a lot of manual tweaks to eke out every bit of performance because the architecture/compiler is too immature to do it for you. If you have a stable platform based on a stable and well known architecture, you should have far fewer problems. Anyhow, most game programming is going to GPU these days, with only things like data structures a

      • They do it for the money, but there is a reason some games that appear on the 3 platforms end up having the PS3 as the "worse" version. Most recently skyrim, but fallout 3, for example, ran and looked better on the xbox 360 and the pc.

  • POWER7 baby. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @01:50PM (#39211241)

    Probably. But they'll probably use a POWER7 based CPU instead of an AMD x86 CPU. Given how much Cell influenced POWER7, I'd actually say that's a huge likelyhood they'd go POWER instead of x86.

    • AMD could use IBM-POWER7 for CPU together with their own bleeding edge GPU, might look bizzare, but also makes sense..
  • by butalearner ( 1235200 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @01:52PM (#39211259)

    TOKYO, Japan -- Sony released their heavily anticipated and much hyped Playstation 4 Entertainment System today, but the games are nowhere to be found. Developers agree the hardware specs are extremely impressive, but nobody knows how to actually make games for it. Thankfully, the latest member of this venerable line of consoles is backwards compatible with the games of all previous generations.

    "I think we got it perfect this time," says Sony chairman Kaz Hirai, "we expect our internal studios won't figure out how to make games for at least another few months. Third party developers should take even longer. We figure the PS4 should be hitting its stride right when the PS5 hits the market several years down the road."

    How difficult will it be to develop games for that one? When asked the question, Hirai rubs his hands together, a gleeful smile spreading across his face.


    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      Good parody. When I think about the PS3's processor, I always remember them bragging at launch that devs will still be trying to optimize for the PS3 when it's lifetime is over. I'm still astounded that they thought that was something to brag about.

  • It is a pain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @01:55PM (#39211311)

    I programmed a Cell processor (for HPC, not gaming) a few years ago, and it was definitely a pain in the butt compared to just targeting a multi-core x86.

    The problem, at least back then, was that you had to write explicit code to have the various cores communicate with each other (DMA transfers, etc.)

    I imagine compilers/libraries/SDK's have improved the situation since then, but really the modest performance premium offered by the chip just wasn't worth the hassle.

    • Re:It is a pain (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @06:49PM (#39215269)

      Yes, writing code for CELL is much harder than MT x86. However when you do the DMA the right way (16B boundary aligned, and fetch the next work batch while computing the previous), use the predicated instructions (which the compiler wasn't very good at when I used it, so I had to use c-intrinsics ) instead of conditional jumps and make sure you schedule your instructions so you get the dual issue going; The Cell is an absolute monster in terms of raw computational power. You always complete a memory access (you never get cache misses) in 6 cycles which at 3.2GHz which the Cell has is around 6-10 times faster than the fastest DDR3 memory. You rarely get branching misses if you use the correct instructions for loops and predicated instructions where possible. Effectively eliminating the two biggest performance bottlenecks in modern microprocessor design. At the COST that you have to manually shuffle data and make sure the machine performs at it's max.

      This is a well known trade off in microprocessor design: Make a chip that runs excellent code at break neck speed and poor code like porridge; Or make a chip that runs excellent code at an okay speed and also runs poor code at a decent speed. Cell is designed as the former, which actually all of Sony's hardware are, while X86 is designed as the later. One can argue which is better, I'd say it depends on the application and who is going to program it. Most programmers are not proficient enough program such strict machines as the Cell properly because you need a deeper understanding of computer architecture than what most programmers have.

      In closing: Yes it is difficult, but it is by no means a slow chip if you program it the way it was intended to. And it might not be the best chip for all applications.

      • The problem with that idea is that in practice the PS3 isn't really any more powerful than the 360. 360 games usually look better and often play smoother. So the tradeoff was actually between an efficient system that works fine, or an efficient system that you have to be a genius to master and to merely get the same results.

        See, you forgot the really important tradeoff in microprocessor design, cost vs. utility. And so did Sony. They designed their own chip when something off the shelf would do. When you co

  • Not being a game developer I wonder what game devs would prefer, a PS4 chip architecture that is similar to other consoles/PC architecture but with the cost of starting with new dev kits/libraries, or sticking with Cell-based architecture but you still have big differences with PC/Xbox Next/Wii U. Seems to me the initial pain of working with new libraries and dev kits would be a time consumer at the beginning, but the long term gain of easier portability would be worth it in the end. Devs, what would you
    • I thought the reason the 360 hit the ground running was the Dev kits were good and the programmers just had to get to speed with the console. They got 90% out machine right away and took another few years to wring the rest out.
      Where as the PS3 had crap tools and was much harder to code for. The idea being the first games got about 60% out of the kit, then around the 80% it surpasses what the 360 is capable of and only the best can get the full 100%. This give the console a long life and lets products get b
      • In the long run? You mean after a year, when PC hardware makes the console look lame? That long run?

      • by AJH16 ( 940784 )

        XBox 360 was DirectX based. It was/is basically a PC with fixed spec's that hooked up to a TV, so the same stuff they'd been using for PCs for a long time was the stuff they used for XBox 360.

    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      Very few game devs are PS3-exclusive. The majority of them already have to deal with a few different architectures. Anything that brings one of the outliers closer to the rest of the pack is probably good for them.

    • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:18PM (#39211725)

      > Not being a game developer I wonder what game devs would prefer,

      You are asking two questions:

      What do game devs prefer for software?
      What do game devs prefer for hardware?

      When I used to work with PS3 developers -- they almost _always_ lead their development on the XBox 360. It was _very_ rare was it to see a studio lead on the PS3 -- but those that did -- tended to have a better engine for load-balancing at the end of the day (it is easier to scale down, then scale up.)

      Easier: Multi-Core --> Few-Core (PS3 --> Xbox360)
      Harder: Few-Core --> Multi-Core (XBox 360 --> PS3)

      Microsoft is a software company,
      Sony is a hardware company.

      The tools MS provided were _perceived_ as being easier and better. (I can and will not comment on the reality.)

      WRT hardware, game devs appreciated the power the PS3 + SPUs even if it involved the crap load of work to get it running 100% load-balancing. Having to worry about LHS (Load-Hit-Stores) was a total PITA for PS3 developers -- memory access was pretty much ignored on the XBox 360. The bigger problem was Sony using a 64-bit OS (all pointers were 64-bits !!) when the dam console only has 512 MB address space?!?! This kind of "Sony ignorance/arrogance" being out of touch with developers was not uncommon.

      PC + Xbox Developers tend to want a AMD/Intel approach to hardware for _ease of _use. Sony / Nintendo developers tend to prefer multi-core / dedicated CPUs for everything for _performance_.

      One or the other isn't wrong -- just a different focus.

  • I am an AMD fan and all but we don't need another way for Sony to 'Bulldozer' over previous functionality.
  • NIH Syndrome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:04PM (#39211445)

    I've shipped PS2 games and worked with numerous developers that have shipped PS3 games.

    Sony's problem is the Not-Invented-Here syndrome. They have yet to learn the lesson that Apple mastered years ago in the 80's -- use off the shelf commodity parts!! Why? They will become DIRT cheap in a few years. Why waste millions of dollars investing into R&D of new hardware when in 5 years somebody else will have a no-name version of it at a fraction of the price??

    Sony is _slowly_ learning this lesson. After how many man-years of a buggy PS2 GS (Graphics Synthesizer) that couldn't even properly do z-tesing (!?!/!) the PS3 RSX is (mostly) a GTX 7800+'Reality_Synthesizer []'

    When the PS2 first came out everyone bitched how difficulty it was, yet it was a beautiful thing to see all of its 7 CPUs working full speed load-balancing the system. It laid the foundation that multi-core programming was the future. When the PS3 came out everyone bitched how even more difficult it would be. Developers just sucked it up and now we are even seeing A.I. running on the SPE/SPUs on second-gen and 3rd-gen PS3 games! That's pretty cool to see a modern game engine utilizing every core it can.

    Using stock parts: CPU + GPU is a great way to minimize costs. You don't get the same performance benefits of true dedicated design but the commodity parts are cheap enough that the pricing curve naturally takes care of that. Kind of a no-brainer if Sony decides to use an AMD or Intel CPU for the PS4.


    See: PS3 games list & SPE usages []


    Killzone 2 utilizes roughly only 60 per cent of the SPU's.
    "It's incredible to see huge levels and see the deferred rendering and note that on all the SPU's, even on the heaviest load were coming up to about 60%," Haynes said. "They weren't coming close to maxing out. They had about 40% of space before they started tripping or saw slow down on some of the processes."


    Killzone 3 uses 100% of SPU's.
    we're having a footprint of a level that's ten times bigger than the average Killzone 2 level. Killzone 2 was not a small game, but that was as far as we could push it back then.

  • Cell Failed (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:09PM (#39211551) Journal
    Remember the launch? IBM, Sony and Toshiba were going to put Cell processors in everything from cheap consumer electronics to number crunching supercomputers. In reality, IBM sold a few Cell blades, Sony put one in each PS3 and that's about it.
    • Re:Cell Failed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DigitalDreg ( 206095 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:09PM (#39212547)

      Disclaimer: I used to teach Cell programming classes for people who were looking to do HPC on the blades.

      Cell failed. But the reasons behind the failure are more interesting.

      The obvious answer is that it was hard to program. On a single chip you had the PowerPC processor and 8 SPUs. Communication was through mailboxes for small messages and DMA transfers for larger messages. To get the most out of a chip you had to juggle all 9 processor elements at the same time, try to vectorize all of your ops, and keep the memory moving while you were doing computation. That is the recipe for success for most architectures - keeping everything as utilized as possible. But it is also hard to do on most architectures, and the embedded nature of Cell made it that much more difficult.

      There were better software tools in the works for people who didn't want to drop down to the SPU intrinsic level to program. There were better chips in the works too; more SPUs, stronger PowerPC cores, and better communications with main memory. Those things did not come to fruition because IBM was looking to cut expenses to keep profits high (instead of boosting revenue). The Cell project was killed when a new VP known for cost cutting came in. We finally had a good Cell blade to sell (QS22 - two chips, 32GB RAM, fully pipelined double precision, etc.) and that lasted four months before the project got whacked. And we lost a lot of good people as a result. (That VP, Bob Moffat, was part of the Galleon insider trading scandal.)

      So yes, Cell failed. But not necessarily for the obvious reasons. IBM has been on a great cost cutting binge the past few years - it lets them meet their earnings per share targets. But it causes collateral damage.

  • I guess we should dust off our old Xbox hacking skills if that's the case.

    I mean, if the Playstation 4 is going AMD Fusion, it'll probably be x86 with GPU, and we all know the fun that was had breaking into the original Xbox (which was originally done with AMD parts before they switched to Intel)

    Of course, they could always take the lessons of the Xbox and fix it so it won't be a problem. Oh wait, it's Sony, nevermind.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:38PM (#39212007) Homepage

    The trouble with the Cell processor is that there's not enough memory per processor. Each of the little processors (the "SPE" units) in the PS3 only has 256KB of RAM. That's not enough to store a frame. It's not enough to store a game level, or a significant amount of geometry. It's more like having a number of DSPs available.

    This forces redesigning the program to work in batch mode. A batch job is one frame, but it's still a batch job. Data for one frame cycle is sequentially pumped through one or more SPEs. There's not much random access, because access to main memory from an SPE is in big blocks, transferred in the background.

    This is both limiting and a huge pain. Especially when the competition is selling shared-memory multiprocessors. I used to do game physics engines, and when the PS3 came out, my reaction was "I'm glad I sold off that technology and got out of the business." I knew some people at Sony's SCEA R&D center, and they basically threw all their smart people at trying to figure out how to use the Cell effectively. Many of the early games really ran in the main CPU, with the SPEs managing things that didn't affect gameplay, like particles for fire, explosions, smoke, and such.

    If each SPE came with a few megabytes of RAM, instead of only 256K, it wouldn't be so bad. Then you could probably have the physics engine in one CPU, the AI in another, the background object management in a third, and so on. But each of those things needs more state than whatever fraction of 256K is left over after the code is loaded.

    There's a long history of Cell-like architectures in the supercomputer field. The BBN Butterfly, the NCube Hypercube, and the Connection Machine also consisted of a large number of processors, each with a small memory. None were successful. One of the lessons of multiprocessing computer architecture to date is that the two extremes - shared memory multiprocessors and networked clusters of separate computers - are useful. None of the partially-shared machines have been successful. The Cell is the only one ever to be mass-produced.

    Great for audio, though. The audio guys like having their own processor, and audio processing really is a streaming process of tight loops without much state.

    • Then you could probably have the physics engine in one CPU, the AI in another, the background object management in a third, and so on.

      That's a bad way to design your engine, even in a homogeneous multi-core system like a PC. You'll be wasting a lot of resources because only a few of those tasks will require a whole processor for themselves, so it'll be idling most of the time. A better approach is to break down your engine into a large number of small more or less self contained tasks, then implement a jobs system that takes those tasks and runs them on whatever processor is free at that moment. This is how most current high end game engi

      • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:43PM (#39213065) Homepage

        A better approach is to break down your engine into a large number of small more or less self contained tasks, then implement a jobs system that takes those tasks and runs them on whatever processor is free at that moment.

        That works fine on a shared-memory multiprocessor. On a Cell processor with 256K, switching a processor from one task to another requires moving in new code and data, not just CPU dispatching. That's not something you can do many times per frame cycle.

  • If Sony hadn't spent so much money on that complicated CELL processor, maybe they could have afforded to add an extra 64MB of RAM to the incredibly limiting memory ceiling. That's where so many of the difficulties come from.
  • It took years for PS3 to get good games. It was 10x harder to work with than the X360 or Wii.

    Uncharted 3 is a thing of beauty (for a console) and Naughty Dog is squeezing amazing performance out (for a console), but they're the best devs Sony has and it took 5 years. Was a new proprietary architecture that works unlike anything else on the market worth the billions of losses and the ramp-up time? No. Xbox 360 has power parity (better in some areas, worse in others, but you can do about the same games on bot

  • It makes perfect sense to ditch Cell -- The only reason they needed Cell 5-7 years ago was that GPUs were not yet general-purpose enough (at least, off-the-shelf ones) to handle all the types of calculations that you'd want to do gracefully. Fusion, or a tightly-coupled CPU-GPU hardware design is precisely the type of architecture that game consoles require.

    In fact, the Xbox 360 is essentially "fusion" at the motherboard level -- The CPU can lock and share portions of the cache directly with the GPU -- th
  • A thing of beauty (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bram Stolk ( 24781 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:21PM (#39213599) Homepage

    I used to program SPUs for a living for a game studio. (Worked on SOCOM Confrontation and some unannounced titles).
    I disagree with all this bitching from devs: the CELL SPU is a thing of beauty.

    If an engineer is worth his salt, and knows his trade well, what he can do with it is amazing.
    I was blown away with how incredibly fast this SPU is, once properly used.

    But only if you know how to do branchless code, and you know the difference between structures-of-arrays and arrays-of-structures.
    Once the data is lined up properly, and you eliminated those nasty branches, carefully crafted code (intrinsics, not vanilla C++) will make that thing fly like nothing else. Insanely fast, think GPU-fast, but with a more generic programming model.

    I regret the death of the Cell architecture.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell