IBM Offers Help To Get To The Heart Of Cell

IBM is offering game developers wrestling with its advanced Cell Broadband Engine (Cell/B.E.) microprocessor in the PlayStation 3 a chance to pick the brains of the people who created the chip.

The company is holding a developer jam session with Vivendi Games’ studios, including High Moon and Radical, this week at the High Moon Studios in Carlsbad, California. IBM  will meet with Vivendi developers to provide hands on programming sessions on the processor.

The Cell processor is unlike anything used in a videogame console before. Developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba, it’s based on IBM’s POWER CPU architecture, but has six co-processors, called SPEs, or Synergistic Processing Elements.

The performance of the Cell is such that IBM has discussed using it in supercomputers and has already released one blade server based on the Cell, the QS20, which provided 205 GFLOPS of floating point performance. With a rackmount chassis, performance could reach 2.8TFLOPs, which would easily put such a system in the Top 500 supercomputer list.

“The Cell Broadband Engine is complex high-performance architecture that processes millions of pieces of information per second to deliver highly detailed graphics,” said Hal Lasky, vice president of consumer, media and entertainment for IBM Global Engineering Solutions in a statement. “Our focus is also on enabling the broader eco-system of game developers to fully utilize the power of the Cell Broadband Engine. We hope this takes us to a plateau that has never been approached before.”

One would think this sort of information would have been given out to developers before the console was released, not three months after. Sony Computer Electronics did not return inquiries from

Clinton Keith, chief technology officer for High Moon, admitted it “would have been great to get it before launch,” but the information wasn’t available at the time, so they are seeking it out now.

There is a notable dearth of titles for the PS3, as a visit to Best Buy or GameStop would show. Only one title, “Resistance: Fall of Man,” is considered a real display of the console’s capabilities, but Keith said that’s nothing compared to what Cell could do.

“There will be titles in 3-4 years from now which will shock you,” Keith told

Norman Liang, business development manager for IBM Global Engineering Solutions, said this brainstorm session is an extra initiative done at Vivendi’s behest, not IBM’s, and if competitors like Electronic Arts and Take 2 want to hold a similar event, they are welcome to do so.

He added that IBM is working with non-gaming companies to fully utilize the power of the Cell chip. It is working with Mercury Computer on aerospace and defense applications based on Cell for the QS20.

“We are working with a host of universities across the globe who are using Cell technology for a myriad of rationales, including 3D rendering of ancient cities and medical imaging,” he said in an e-mailed comment.

News Around the Web