IBM sells the Cell outside the gaming market

IBM has signed a deal with US systems developer Mercury Computer Systems to licence the revolutionary Cell processor. This deal is the first that sells the new design outside of the games market.

The Cell chip, jointly developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba, combines nine processors on a single piece of silicon and is set to revolutionise graphics processing. The architecture consists of a single master core based on the power PC design and eight secondary processors and has a peak performance of 200GFlops according to IBM.

The first appearance of the processor is expected to be in the upcoming Playstation 3 to be launched next year.

The deal with Mercury Computer Systems will be playing to the Cell’s strengths. Mercury says that it expects to incorporate the chip in ‘data intensive applications’. The company’s expertise is transforming large quantities of data from sensors and turning it into information that can be visualised and analysed. The company has particular strengths in the specialist medical and military markets.

Mercury says that it will be working with IBM engineers to create optimised Cell-based products targeted at current and new applications in medical imaging, industrial inspection, aerospace and defence, seismic processing, and telecommunications.

Mercury’s existing markets are in medical diagnostic imaging devices including MRI, and digital X-ray. It also provides radio frequency products for enhanced communications in both military and commercial applications.

The company also designs embedded systems for semiconductor imaging applications including photomask generation and wafer inspection and 3D image processing and visualization software and optimized systems to diverse end markets including life sciences, geosciences, and simulations.

Mercury is a niche supplier of high performance equipment and so IBM will not be expecting to ship enormous quantities. However, the resulting applications will undoubtedly provide some high profile applications for the Cell that will show off the processor’s capabilities and demonstrate to the industry at large that the Cell is capable of much more that generating photographic quality monsters in real time.

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