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IBM unsheathes Cell blade server

Plans seven strong unit

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IBM demonstrated a blade server board based on the Cell architecture at the E3 show this week, and reportedly plans to sell the boards in rack-based server systems.

The board carried two Cell processors running at up to 2.8Ghz, as well as 1GB of DRAM split across two chips, according to Nikkei’s TechOn service. The demo box ran on Linux.

The chips have been clocked at 3GHz in the lab, according to an IBM engineer quoted by TechOn, meaning theoretical performance of 400Gflops for a two chip board.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the demo board featured chunky heatsinks and fans. However, IBM expects to be able to use thinner heat sinks which will allow it to squeeze seven of the boards into a rackmount chassis.

The massively parallel architecture has been jointly developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba, and so far they seem to be pitching it at every market that comes to mind, from consoles, to PDAs, mainstream computers, and digital home appliances.

That Cell will be underpinning Playstation 3 is no secret. That IBM chose E3 to demo the dual-processor blade board may point to the company’s designs on compute intensive entertainment market. Hollywood is gobbling up computer capacity, while the onset of HDTV, for example, is expected to put massive demands on broadcasters’ tech resources. Or perhaps the engineers had simply lashed together the board and just wanted to show off their work.

IBM already has one of the more diverse blade server lines around with Xeon-, Opteron- and its homemade Power-based systems. ®

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