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IBM bladesmiths forge slim Cell system, SDK

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IBM has announced a new thinner Cell-based blade system, allowing twice as many units to be fitted per rack, and an SDK intended to ease development in the Cell Broadband Engine (Cell BE) environment.

Dubbed the IBM BladeCenter QS21, the new board is rated for peak performance of "approximately 460" Gflops, allowing 6.4 Teraflops in a single BladeCenter chassis and over 25.8 Teraflops in a standard 42U rack. IBM claims power efficiency, too, 1.05 Gflops per watt (or 3.8 quadrillion floating point operations per tenpenny kilowatt-hour, if you like). The QS21 and accompanying SDK for Multicore Acceleration Version 3.0 will be available from October.

According to Jim Comfort, IBM Global Engineering veep for Optimized Systems, the QS21 "incorporates not only twice the memory and density, but can now function either as a standalone blade server, or as a seamless addition to existing POWER or x86-based system."

The new blade in the armoury, as well as being slimmer, boasts an extra 2GB of I/O buffer memory. Together with the new SDK, IBM hope it will be snapped up by customers needing to run intensive graphics applications such as 3D rendering, compression and encryption. An image-rendering demo called "Interactive Ray Tracer" is available on IBM's alphaWorks website.

The SDK is designed to allow "partitioning of a customer application across a hybrid computing platform consisting of an x86 based system and one or more BladeCenter QS21s." IBM hopes this will encourage people to add QS21s to existing platforms.

Sony may be using Cell to power its charge on the living room in the PS3, but IBM are evidently looking more at the industries which provide content for that living room.®

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