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by Mike Zazaian September 13, 2006 - 2:09pm, 9 Comments

IBM's Cell Processor

IBM has begun to distribute it’s new line of high-powered QS20 Blade Servers based on the same Cell Processor that will be used in the upcoming Playstation 3.

Today IBM announced a new line of high-powered QS20 Blade Servers intended for use in seismic research, encryption, digital image rendering and military surveillance applications. Each QS20 will include two nine-cored Cell Processors clocked at 3.2Ghz apiece, which were developed by IBM along with Sony and Toshiba for Sony’s upcoming Playstation 3 console, among other things. Toshiba will use cell processors for HDTV applications, and it’s clear what IBM’s intentions are for the Cell. But as Playstation 3 isn’t scheduled for release until November, the QS20 will mark the first application in which the highly-touted Cell will be available to consumers. The QS20s will run on Red Hat’s Fedora Core 5 version of Linux.

An IBM Blade ServerWhile IBM has declined to acknowledge a price for the upcoming servers, due out September 27th, an announcement within the company suggested that the retail price for each server will begin at $18.995. Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has already ordered a number of such systems for use in a supercomputer. While the number of QS20’s in use is not certain, the supercomputer will include 16,000 Cell processors and is due out in 2007.

Unlike most consumer processors which contain one or two cores, each Cell processor consists of nine cores. The main core, called “Power Processor Element,” performs all of the primary functions of the processor and acts as an interface for the eight other cores. These other cores, called “Synergistic Processing Elements,” are each designed to perform a specific processing function within the chip. Because the chips are so complex, however, IBM claims the yield rate for manufacturing them is only 10-20%. This means that of all the processors produced, only 10-20% will have 9 fully-functioning cores. With inherent production issues such as these, it’s not difficult to see why the servers carry the same price as a Mazda.

[via cnet]