Monday, December 06, 2004

IBM's Cell Microprocessor

When IBM gave a sneak peek at its new Cell microprocessor this week, it was short on specifics about what it calls a supercomputer on a chip. But details are leaking out thanks to a recent patent awarded to IBM and Big Blue's own disclosures for an upcoming conference.

The Cell chips -- jointly created by IBM, Sony and Toshiba -- are expected to have a wide impact on everything from handheld computers to supercomputers. But the biggest potential use is for Sony's PlayStation 3 video-game console, which is expected to debut in 2006. Many analysts believe that if the Cell is successful, it will become the biggest threat to Intel's dominance of the chip industry.

In a disclosure to the International Solid State Circuits Conference, IBM said it has made Cell chips that run at 4.6 gigahertz and operate at 1.3 volts.

That speed is notable in part because Intel canceled its 4-gigahertz Pentium 4 chip this year. IBM earlier in the week would say only that a rack of Cell chips could compute 16 teraflops, or trillions of precision math operations, a second. The world's fastest supercomputer currently deployed in the commercial market is NEC's Earth Simulator, which computes 36 teraflops.

No comments: