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"Cell" Processor Promises 4GHz in Linux-based Devices
Posted: 08-Feb-2005 [Source: IBM]

[IBM, Sony Group, and Toshiba have taken the wraps off their long awaited PowerPC based "Superchip" featuring 10 times higher performance than current PC technology. The processor has Linux support and could find its way into entertainment devices before fanning out to digital TV, home servers, and supercomputers. Here are the details:]

San Francisco, CA -- At the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) today, IBM, Sony Corporation, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (Sony and Sony Computer Entertainment collectively referred to as Sony Group) and Toshiba Corporation (Toshiba) for the first time disclosed in detail the breakthrough multi-core architectural design - featuring supercomputer-like floating point performance with observed clock speeds greater than 4 GHz - of their jointly developed microprocessor code-named Cell.

A team of IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba engineers has collaborated on development of the Cell microprocessor at a joint design center established in Austin, Texas, since March 2001. The prototype chip is 221 mm(2), integrates 234 million transistors, and is fabricated with 90 nanometer SOI technology.

Cell's breakthrough multi-core architecture and ultra high-speed communications capabilities deliver vastly improved, real-time response for entertainment and rich media applications, in many cases 10 times the performance of the latest PC processors.

Effectively a "supercomputer on a chip" incorporating advanced multi-processing technologies used in IBM's sophisticated servers, Sony Group's computer entertainment systems and Toshiba's advanced semiconductor technology, Cell will become the broadband processor used for industrial applications to the new digital home.

Another advantage of Cell is to support multiple operating systems, such as conventional operating systems (including Linux), real-time operating systems for computer entertainment and consumer electronics applications as well as guest operating systems for specific applications, simultaneously.

Initial production of Cell microprocessors is expected to begin at IBM's 300mm wafer fabrication facility in East Fishkill, N.Y., followed by Sony Group's Nagasaki Fab, this year. IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba expect to promote Cell-based products including a broad range of industry-wide applications, from digital televisions to home servers to supercomputers.

Among the highlights of Cell released today:

* Cell is a breakthrough architectural design -- featuring eight synergistic processors and top clock speeds of greater than 4 GHz (as measured during initial hardware testing)

* Cell is a multicore chip capable of massive floating point processing

* Cell is OS neutral and supports multiple operating systems simultaneously

"Today's disclosure of the Cell chip's breakthrough architectural design is a significant milestone in an ambitious project that began four years ago with the creation of the IBM, Sony and Toshiba design lab in Austin, Texas," said William Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Systems and Technology Group. "Today we see the tangible results of our collaboration: an open, multi-core, microprocessor that portends a new era in graphics and multi-media performance."

"Today, we are very proud to share with you the first development of the Cell project, initiated with aspirations by the joint team of IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba in March 2001," said Ken Kutaragi, executive deputy president and COO, Sony Corporation, and president and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. "With Cell opening a doorway, a new chapter in computer science is about to begin."

"We are proud that Cell, a revolutionary microprocessor with a brand new architecture that leapfrogs the performance of existing processors, has been created through a perfect synergy of IBM, Sony Group and Toshiba's capabilities and talented resources, "said Masashi Muromachi, corporate vice president of Toshiba Corporation and president & CEO of Toshiba's Semiconductor Company. "We are confident that Cell will provide major momentum for the progress of digital convergence, as a core device sustaining a whole spectrum of advanced information-rich broadband applications, from consumer electronics, home entertainment through various industrial systems."

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