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Cell-based coprocessor card runs Linux

Jul 31, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 101 views

Mercury Computer is sampling a PCI-Express add-in card powered by a Cell processor running Yellow Dog Linux. The Cell Accelerator Board (CAB) targets rendering, ray tracing, video/image processing, and signal processing applications, and is said to deliver 180 GFLOPS (billion floating-point… operations per second).

(Click for larger view of Mercury CAB)

Mercury claims the CAB will be the first Cell-based system for the “workstation” market, when it ships early next year. Mercury also claims to have shipped the first Cell-based computer in general, a 470 pound blade chassis that shipped in January.

The CAB runs a Yellow Dog Linux BSP (board support package) developed by Terra Systems. It can be used with Mercury's Multicore Plus Advantage middleware, said to abstract hardware capabilities and distribute data processing across multiple computing elements, such as the eight “synergistic” vector processing units found in Cell processors.

Cell is a relatively new chip that weds a PowerPC control processor with eight vector-processing units variously called SPUs or SPEs (“synergistic processing units/engines”). The chip was co-developed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba, and will be used in Sony's Playstation 3.


A limited number of CAB “prototypes” are available now, with general availability scheduled for Q1, 2007. The CAB will be priced upwards of $8,000, with volume discounts available.

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