Monday, November 29, 2004

Streaming(?) Cell Processors and Graphics

This is a topic of direct research interest to me: Via the EE Times:
The eagerly anticipated Cell processor from IBM, Toshiba and Sony leverages a multicore 64-bit Power architecture with an embedded streaming processor, high-speed I/O, SRAM and dynamic multiplier in an effort, the partners hope, to revolutionize distributed computing architectures.

Each processing element comprises a Power-architecture 64-bit RISC CPU, a highly sophisticated direct-memory access controller and up to eight identical streaming processors. The Power CPU, DMA engine and streaming processors all reside on a very fast local bus. And each processing element is connected to its neighbors in the cell by high-speed "highways." Designed by Rambus Inc. with a team from Stanford University, these highways — or parallel bundles of serial I/O links — operate at 6.4 GHz per link. One of the ISSCC papers describes the link characteristics, as well as the difficulties of developing high-speed analog transceiver circuits in SOI technology.

The streaming processors, described in another paper, are self-contained SIMD units that operate autonomously once they are launched.

They include a 128-kbyte local pipe-lined SRAM that goes between the stream processor and the local bus, a bank of one hundred twenty-eight 128-bit registers and a bank of four floating-point and four integer execution units, which appear to operate in single-instruction, multiple-data mode from one instruction stream. Software controls data and instruction flow through the processor.
One theme of my research is demonstrating the power of modern GPUs for a wide variety of applications, and how their streaming nature represents a new model of computing akin to, but not exactly like the model used for traditional streaming algorithms. I wonder to what extent the new Cell processor fits in with this notion.

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