IBM Says Cell Processor Technology Will Continue

IBM officials address rumors that the IT company will end development of its Cell processor, which forms the basis of several supercomputers and powers such devices as Sony's PlayStation 3 game console. IBM has halted development of the next generation of the Cell chip, but officials say the technology will play a role in future processor platforms, including IBM's upcoming Power7 chips.

IBM officials are saying the company plans to continue manufacturing and selling its Cell processor, refuting rumors circulating on the Internet that the technology was being killed.

The future of the Cell processor has been a topic of speculation on the Web since a Nov. 19 report from the German Website Heise Online quoted an IBM executive as saying the company was halting development of the next-generation Cell chip.

In the article, David Turek, vice president of deep computing at IBM, was quoted as saying the next-generation PowerXCell 32i-aimed at supercomputers and the high-performance computing space-was being killed. The chip was to feature two PPEs (PowerPC Processor Elements) and 32 SPEs (Synergistic Processing Elements).

However, Turek said parts of the Cell design would live on in other forms, though he wouldn't elaborate.

IBM developed the chip in conjunction with Sony and Toshiba, forming an alliance called STI.

The Cell processor found itself into such devices as Sony's PlayStation 3 gaming console, HD television sets from Toshiba and servers from Mercury Computer Systems. It also has become a key component in some high-end computers. It formed the basis of IBM's Roadrunner supercomputer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which until November was the fastest system in the world.

In a statement Nov. 24, IBM officials said the Cell processor has formed the foundation of their belief that the future of computing will rely on the integration of multicore and hybrid technologies.

"IBM continues to invest in Cell technologies as part of this hybrid and multicore strategy, including in new Power7-based systems expected next year," the statement read.

It's unclear whether IBM will continue developing new versions of the Cell processor. However, the statement did say IBM "continues to manufacture the Cell processor for use by Sony in its PlayStation3, and we look forward to continue developing next-generation processors for the gaming market."

The Roadrunner supercomputer, which also uses Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices, was the first system to reach a peak performance of a petaflop (1,000 trillion floating-point operations per second).

The current PowerXCell 8i chips also were the key processing technologies in the first three supercomputers on the Green500 list of the world's most energy-efficient systems.