Feeds

Of IBM's Cell-Based Blade

Circuitous route to launch

High performance access to file storage

Comment IBM has announced its first computing solution based on the Cell Broadband Engine (Cell BE), namely the IBM BladeCenter QS20. This solution targets computationally intense workloads such as 3D animation rendering, compression, encryption, and seismic and medical imaging, to help companies create and operate highly visual, immersive, realtime applications.

Based on the Power Architecture, the Cell BE was originally developed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba for use in gaming consoles. Its multi-core architecture and high-speed communications offer improved, realtime response by incorporating IBM's advanced multi-processing technologies—generally found only in the company's most sophisticated server offerings. IBM stated it believes that the QS20 will expand the use of Cell into industries such as medical imaging, aerospace, defense, digital animation, communications, and oil and gas. Some specific applications mentioned include comparison and mapping of 3D medical images, which are typically are taken over months or years; signal processing and radar enhancements for the aerospace industry; and improved seismic imaging for energy companies engaged in locating and drilling for oil.

The IBM BladeCenter QS20's incorporation of the Cell BE follows last year's collaboration with Mercury Computer Systems that sought to enable Mercury to build Cell BE-based solutions targeted at multiple industries. IBM indicated that it will also continue to work with the broader community through Blade.org, Power.org and open standards to bring additional Cell BE-based solutions to market. The IBM BladeCenter QS20, based on Cell BE, will be delivered through the IBM System Cluster 1350, which offers a variety of server, processor, and switching technology options. Pricing details were not announced.

It's interesting to watch the circuitous route that technology often takes. Capabilities that were once considered only in the context of the extreme high end of the server marketplace can now be found in some of the most common of consumer electronics. The enormous computation and graphically intense capability of the Cell BE is just one example of this.

Although games are fun and cool, especially if one needs an excuse to put off doing something more important, the highly computational nature of graphics and movement integration found in common sub-$200 gaming consoles represents an oft-underappreciated deployment of technical innovation. Beyond the thrill of 3D off-road dirt biking or intergalactic battles with the green men from Mars, the sheer power enabled by the computational engines in these consoles is amazing.

When considering more mundane, but ultimately far more lucrative applications, harnessing this expertise to create highly sophisticated realtime computing and imaging systems for industries as varied as medical imaging, seismology, and radar, among others, is a natural outgrowth of what are otherwise cool consumer electronics. This counters conventional wisdom that associates high performance with massive expenditure, but then again conventional wisdom, by definition, does not dictate the path of innovation either.

The Cell BE is yet another reminder of the value of investment and innovation in chip design. There are few companies remaining on the planet that take this course of action seriously, yet this is one of the places where a vendor can quite legitimately create competitive advantage and drive the creation of new markets, or at least new market opportunities. The scope of the Power architecture is considerable, when one stops to consider that devices from automotive control systems to game consoles, laptops to workstations, and all the way up to massive-scale super-computing solutions all come from this venerable processor architecture.

By incorporating Cell BE into the BladeCenter, IBM has created additional flexibility for those who typically seek scale-out solutions for their computing needs. The Cell BE and its Power architecture combined with the inherent simplicity of blade-based solutions offers a highly flexible, simplified, and consolidated computing platform for graphics/imaging intensive applications. To our way of thinking, this is just one more reflection of the value and importance of R&D and innovation.

Copyright © 2006, The Sageza Group

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Bored with trading oil and gold? Why not flog some CLOUD servers?
Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans cloud spot exchange
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.