Linux on Sony’s Playstation, By IBM?

Linux on the Playstation 3 (PS3)? IBM thinks so. A tutorial now available on IBM’s developerWorks site provides the rundown on how to deploy Linux on the latest game station from Sony. But there’s more than a Linux endorsement story at work here.

The approach is also a showcase for IBM’s Cell broadband processor, which IBM and partners Sony and Toshiba spent billions to develop.

A key part of the technology’s long-term success rests in the hands of developers who can work with the Cell platform. That means training time.

“This was posted as an informational technology piece for developers looking to broaden their horizons on programming Cell BE-based blades and other Cell BE-based systems,” Kathy Mandelstein, IBM’s director of worldwide developer programs, told “IBM collaborated with Sony and Toshiba in the development of the Cell BE technology discussed in this tutorial.”

Furthermore IBM does not officially endorse the installation of Linux on the PS3.

“All developerWorks articles should simply be taken as informational technology pieces,” Mandelstein said. “However, we think Linux on the PS3 is an excellent way to gain familiarity with Cell BE technology.”

Though the PS3 is a consumer device, IBM sees business value in explaining how to get Linux running on it.

“That article is the first in a series, and as the series continues, it will cover programming and optimization, intrinsics, assembly, that sort of thing, and any knowledge gained will be directly applicable to programming Cell BE-based blades and other Cell BE-based systems,” Mandelstein explained. “But the reader won’t be able to run the examples in parts 2, 3, 4 and so on if he or she doesn’t already have a system running Linux. This is why the installation article came first.”

The IBM tutorial specifically notes that Yellow Dog Linux (YDL) is the distro of choice for installation on the PS3, though there are other Linux distributions that currently will run on Sony’s hardware as well.

“I’m aware that Fedora, Gentoo and Ubuntu are running on the PS3 with varying degrees of polish, and are being actively worked on by the community,” Mandelstein said. “I fully expect other distros will follow. There is a lot of Buzz about Linux on the PS3.”

IBM’s BladeCenter H Cell BE processor-based systems are shipping with Fedora Core.

“But even before that, IBM worked with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center on Linux support for the Cell BE architecture, and submitted patches to the Linux kernel mailing list, that sort of thing,” Mandelstein explained.

The Linux kernel first included support for the Cell process with the 2.6.16 kernel release which came out in March of 2006.

“So, basically all of the code needed for the kernel to run on Cell BE-based systems is already in the kernel — and then also in the patches that the Barcelona Supercomputing Center has posted to their site.”

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