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New IBM blade features upgraded PS3 chip

PowerXCell chip is 16 times faster than console version

An upgraded version of the Cell chip used in the PlayStation 3 (PS3) and jointly designed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba has been built into a new blade server from IBM.

The IBM BladeCenter QS22 runs the PowerXCell 8i chip, which according to IBM has 16 times more memory and is five times faster than the original chip found in the Playstation 3. Instead of running operating systems, the Cell chip takes on massive calculations, making it well-suited for video games or supercomputing tasks

"The new Cell chip is up to 20 times faster on some common financial calculations than Intel's quad-cores," said Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group.

"The real advantage is being able to run a lot of workloads a lot faster than you thought possible. It could potentially be a game changer for some companies."

Olds added that the new system will let IT managers run projects in-house using much less hardware. "If you're currently using 20 Intel- or AMD-based systems, you could replace that with one of these blades," he added. "Think of the difference."

While IBM has used Cell blades in the new Roadrunner supercomputer that it's building for Los Alamos National Laboratory now, this is the first time they'll be selling them for more than research applications.

The Cell-based blades are largely expected to give Roadrunner enough of a power boost to enable it to bypass the petaflop barrier when it's fully tested later this month.

The QS22 blade is designed to work in supercomputers or in a large corporate data center, according to Olds. It can be used on its own or along side other blades, like those based on AMD and Intel processors.


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