CELL ARCHITECTURE

4/23/2005

The Cell CPU architecture was introduced with the usual flood of hyperbole in early 2005. It is a joint creation of Sony, IBM and Toshiba. It is intended for general purpose computing and is optimized for the perceived needs of distributed computing. Current plans are that the first major consumer device to use a Cell CPU will be the Playstation 3 Game Console.

Cell is conceived as applying to a family of devices covering a very broad range of applications from consumer devices to top end servers. The critical element is said to be a logical entity called a "cell object" which is a collection of software and data. The Cell architecture is intended to allow a cell object to be distributed to an appropriate Cell device or devices for evaluation. The concept is that the cell object can be handled by any Cell device that can reasonably be accessed.

A single Cell chip can include multiple execution units and partitionable resources such as register banks and RAM. The chip will configure itself dynamically to meet the needs of (an) individual cell object(s). A basic Cell Processor unit includes a central processor (basically a power-PC CPU), Auxiliary Processors, SRAM, register banks, as well as integer and floating point execution units. The patented configuration refers to a "preferred" configuration of 8 Auxiliary processors -- each with 128k of RAM, 128 registers of 128 bits each, four integer execution units and four floating point execution units.

Cell devices may include additional hardware to meet specialized needs such as display data manipulation. "Strict security" is to be built in.

It is not clear at this point how the software "Cells" will be partitioned, scheduled, controlled,.

===

I could continue this fantasy, but I'm getting too old for this. It's pretty clear that the Cell hardware probably can be built and probably will be. It seems to me very unlikely that the magical object oriented software cells hypothecated in the publicity broadside can even be written. ... Much less work Quite possibly "they'll" eventually manage to write some software that does interesting, useful things on Cell hardware. Lord knows what, when, or how.

===

There's a good article on the Cell hardware at http://arstechnica.com/features/2005/02/cell-1/

Return To Index Copyright 1994-2002 by Donald Kenney.