Sony Spearheads Supercomputer-on-a-Chip Development

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI), IBM Corp. and Toshiba Corp. Monday joined forces to turn the microprocessor industry on its ear by producing a microchip — geared at harnessing the broadband Internet — with more processing power than IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer.

The companies said they will invest more than $400 million collectively over the next five years to research and develop a “supercomputer-on-a-chip” code-named “Cell.”

Under the agreement, the three will establish a joint development center within an IBM facility in Austin, Texas. The companies said that at its peak the center will have a staff of nearly 300 computer architects and chip designers. IBM also said that a considerable portion of its new 300 mm wafer manufacturing facility in Fishkill, N.Y., will be dedicated to the product.

“The processor platform that people have only been able to imagine is now going to become a reality,” said Ken Kutaragi, president and chief executive officer of SCEI. “The new broadband processor, code-named Cell, that we are going to create, will raise the curtain on a new era in high-speed, network-based computing. With built-in broadband connectivity, microprocessors that currently exist as individual islands will be more closely linked, making a network of systems act more as one, unified ‘supersystem.’ Just as biological cells in the body unite to form complete physical systems, Cell-based electronic products of all types will form the building blocks of larger systems.”

The companies said they will use copper wires, silicon-on-insulator transistors and low-K dielectric insulation — with features smaller than 0.10 microns, about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair — to create Cell. Cell will be used to power consumer devices which the companies said would be more powerful than Deep Blue, operate at low power, and access the broadband Internet at ultra high speeds. Cell will be designed to deliver teraflops of processing power, according to the companies.

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