Saturday, September 25, 2004

STI cell processor
Next generation processors

According to this website STI Cell Processor, a very sophisticated and advanced microprocessor is being jointly designed by 3 giant companies of microelectronics: Sony, Toshiba and IBM. The processor will be used for 21th century applications such as multimedia in living room, game console and other applications that may require broadband access.

The interesting thing from this story is that the broadband access will be more widely used in households not only for entertainment equipments, but also appliances such as smart microwave, smart refrigerator, or smart HVAC (Heat, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). This string of applications will definitely require a powerful microprocessor, not only for general computation as on PCs today but also for many real-time processes in embedded systems.

Many impressing nanoelectronic technology breakthroughs and inventions will be implemented on to this microprocessor. Among other things are SOI (Silicon on Insulator); 65-nm EUV (Extreme Ultra Violet) lithography; Cell architecture (similar to how human brain works); low-k (low dielectric) which means more silicon components (transistors, diodes, etc.) can be packed into a small die; copper wire.

This $400-million project will definitely change the way we think about a "PC" as the processor is considered as "supercomputer-on-a-chip". According to the site, the processor will even be more powerful than IBM's Big Blue supercomputer, one of the fastest computer in this universe. Not only because the processor will do Tera Floating Operation Per Seconds (Tera-FLOPS), but also because it will have about 20 "mini-cores" which work independently but in coherent and can be grouped all together programmably through software.

Another interesting part is that Sony will use this processor for its next generation game console, PS3. If we look at how amazing the NVidia 6800 Ultra performs but yet with much lower FLOPS compared to this Cell processor, you can imagine how good it can be with this "Tera FLOPS" Cell processor.

Utilizing massive data bandwidth and vast floating point capabilities, coupled with a parallel processing architecture, the Cell processor based development environment is expected to deliver quantum-leap innovation to entertainment applications. Cell-based workstations will be designed to expand the platform for creating digital content across future movie and video game entertainment industries.

Many applications, especially in multimedia and gaming, will be very boosted in performance by this chip. Video rendering processes which now might take hours, even days, can be done in minutes or even seconds. Ultra clear super surround sound, hyper-realistic 3D animation and other unimaginable possibilities and capabilities with current processors will be easily achieved by computers using these chips.

I believe the era of "WinTel" will soon dim, and new era of computing will shine. One thing I want to underline is that I believe the first operating system to support this chip is Linux. Believe me!

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