Tag Archives: Cell processor

FPGAs, GPUs and now the Cell Processor – A Call for Comments

I have received a couple of emails off blog about my post yesterday about the Cell processor and its application to scientific computing.

The basic premise is one of scepticism. The hot area of interest up to a couple of years ago was Field Programming Gate Arrays. Nowadays a lot of discussions focus on the advantages of GPUs. However, the majority of chemists have not even heard of these processors and they remain of interest to programmers and hardware hobbyists and experts.  For the chemists we spoke to at Bio-IT the terms FPGAs and GPUs went over their heads. Not true for the IT people. When we mentioned the Cell processor then it went over the heads of MOST people. So, the Cell is pretty much an unknown entity to most.

People have been programming onto FPGAs for years but none have gone mainstream in the scientific computing world that I am aware of. A number of researchers are now working with GPUs but have any gone mainstream and will they? The Cell might just be different.

So, a question for the readership. What are your thoughts, comments, opinions on FPGAs vs GPUs vs the Cell processor. Where does each have strengths over the others? What do people think about the future of GPUs in terms of scientific computing? What are your thoughts about the Cell processor?


Posted by on May 2, 2008 in Computing


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A Green Solution for Virtual Screening Using the IBM Cell Broadband Processor

I spent a few days this week in Boston at the Bio-IT conference. I was there for two reasons – to support one of the companies I have been consulting with of late and to present on ChemSpider.

The ChemSpider presentation seemed to be well received and I’m grateful for the opportunity to expose the ongoing work we are doing on ChemSpider.

I have spent the past few months supporting the efforts of SimBioSys to bring a potentially revolutionary platform to market. The intention was to deliver the platform to Boston Bio-It and under the leadership of Zsolt Zsoldos, the Chief Technology Officer for SimBioSys, the deadline was met. Zsolt’s already blogged about the WOW FACTOR at Bio-IT. Check it out…it was a true phenomenon.

I’ve blogged previously about the possibility to derive processing power from a gaming system (1,2). By the time that eHITS Lightning was unveiled at Bio-IT the Cell Processor had managed to deliver up to 120X performance improvements for certain examples.A White Paper about the technology has been online for a while now. The technology delivered was enough to garner a position as a finalist for the Best in Show award. It was enough to have some of the other domain players question how much work it was to port eHITS to the Cell. It was essentially a full rewrite and over two man years of effort to deal with coding for the special nature of the processor.

Zsolt’s presentation to the Best in Show judges is online here. You MUST look at slides 8 and 9 to really “get it”. The cost savings associated with the electricity, cooling, space and, in theory, network administration, are enormous. A 100 CPU Intel cluster could be replaced with three PlayStations for the same eHITS throughput. It’s definitely a  “Green Solution”.

With so much attention being given to coding on Graphic Processing Units it’s quite surprising that no one is yet talking about the advantages of the Cell processor. Well, maybe they will now!

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Posted by on in Consulting


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