IBM Cell Processor Debuts In New Blades

In unveiling the specs for the Dual Cell-Based Blade, Mercury is going beyond gaming applications to become the first vendor to use IBM's Cell technology to address industrial, medical and

October 6, 2005

2 Min Read
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The IBM Cell microprocessor technology behind Mercury Computer Systems’ new Dual Cell-Based Blade, announced Thursday, will not only be the harbinger of powerful new things to come for Mercury Computing, but for IBM as well.

In unveiling the specs for the Dual Cell-Based Blade, Mercury demonstrated how it is going beyond gaming applications to become the first vendor to use the Cell technology to address industrial, medical and military markets.

Utilizing two IBM BE processors, Mercury said its blade server will have a 400 GFLOPS peak performance. The configuration will also utilize XDR memory from Rambus and run on Linux OS.

In an interview Satish Gupta, general manager of IBM’s Engineering & Technology Services unit, said the Mercury product, while important, is just the start of what he sees as a growing and long life for the Cell processor. He calls the current Cell technology “a precursor” to processor architecture that can permeate future processors in 10 and 20 years, even finding their way eventually into laptop computers.

Mercury Computer’s Dual Cell-Based Blade will enable the Cell technology to break out of the gaming world where it found its first applications and address demanding applications in aerospace, defense, seismic, semiconductor test, medical imaging and other applications.Mercury said it will provide the Eclipse-based open source software framework to integrate compilers, debuggers, math libraries, utilities and middleware.

“Utilizing the open standards that IBM delivered through its development and offering of the BladeCenter ecosystem,” Mercury stated in its announcement, “the Dual Cell-Based Blade will be available in the IBM BladeCenter platform, which integrates server, storage, and networking functionality to provide upward scalability and performance density for computing needs in a variety of applications.”

Mercury said its Dual Cell-Based Blade can provide up to 2.8 teraFLOPS of processing performance in a 7U form factor with seven blades. A six-foot rack configuration can provide up to 16 teraFLOPS.

Mercury Computing said it has already shared the product’s detailed specs with customers and expects to receive orders soon for systems. Evaluation systems are expected in the first quarter of 2006 with production models planned for the second quarter.

IBM’s Gupta expects to see more models coming from Mercury Computing in the future and he thinks the Cell technology will find its way into different form factors.He expects the outlines of the partnership with Mercury Computing to be developed with other vendors, which, like Mercury Computing, have expertise in specific markets. Many will be expert in “graphics intensive” markets, he added.

The Cell processor technology, which uses eight distinct chips, was developed in a three-way partnership that included IBM, Sony and Toshiba. Sony has targeted the technology for its Playstation 3 and Toshiba is aiming at high-definition TVs.

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