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New Powermacs to use Cell Processor?

post #1 of 221
Thread Starter 
This mystery author, in a rather lengthy article, makes a case for the Cell Processor being the key to the advancement of the Powermac. I wonder what some of the more technically astute members of this forum might think about his ideas.

Article here.
post #2 of 221
NO. NEW POWERMACS WILL NOT USE THE CELL PROCESSOR. NEW POWERMACS WILL USE THE G5 CHIP. CELL IS WILDLY HYPED.
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post #3 of 221
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Yevgeny
NO. NEW POWERMACS WILL NOT USE THE CELL PROCESSOR. NEW POWERMACS WILL USE THE G5 CHIP. CELL IS WILDLY HYPED.

Well, I guess that settles it. Excuse me for breathing.
post #4 of 221
Well I read the article and I must say it's an interesting theory. I wouldn't bet much on this scenario but I like it a lot!
post #5 of 221
Cell is a great concept, and it's clearly a seed for a total paradigm shift that will have to occur in order for computers to become "faster." But it won't debut in macs anytime soon. It might wind up in a GPU, but I think it's going to be a while before we see widespread use of cell-like processors.

For one reason, code needs to be largely rewritten, not just recompiled.
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post #6 of 221
Quote:
For one reason, code needs to be largely rewritten, not just recompiled. [/B]

If that is true, then it would be easier to move to the Pentium than the Cell processor.

Why is everyone so hot on the Cell and down on the Pentium?

I know that 8088-family assembly language is crap, but that only affects the compiler writers...
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post #7 of 221
Thread Starter 
So the most we are likely to see for awhile yet is multi-core G5 chips? I certainly wouldn't have any complaints about that.
post #8 of 221
Henriok, in this thread link, noticed something in a statement from the Graphics and Media State of the Union presentation from WWDC '04 that I had missed.

Quote:
The presenter talks about Core Image as a "stream based processing model" and "mappable to GPUs, SMT CPUs and any other parallell architectures ".

"Any other parallel architectures"? Like Cell, perhaps?



PS- Here are links to other speculative articles by "Neo"...

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post #9 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by e1618978
If that is true, then it would be easier to move to the Pentium than the Cell processor.

Not necessarily, since Cell contains a PowerPC, and the x86 lacks both a minimum binary compatibility and AltiVec or anything comparable. SSE and clones aren't even in the same league.

Quote:
Why is everyone so hot on the Cell and down on the Pentium?

Because x86 is just the same basic style as the traditional PowerPC, only more poorly designed and more fragmented.

Cell changes the rules.

More to the point, Cell uses parallel SIMD processing, um, cells, which make it a very promising multimedia architecture. The Pentium offers all the pain of a transition to a wholly incompatible ISA, and no compelling features over a standard PowerPC core. (A fairly minor, transient speed differential doesn't count—there have been times when PowerPCs were faster, too). It would require a lot of work to get OS X to really use a Cell architecture, but at least the work would pay off with capabilities that conventional CPUs simply don't have.

Quote:
I know that 8088-family assembly language is crap, but that only affects the compiler writers...

The endian issue affects everything, the lack of AltiVec severely reduces the functionality of some of Apple's basic apps and technologies, the lack of binary compatibility forces apps to be rebuilt to get any kind of performance at all, and the completely different design priorities require every app to be completely reoptimized—and possibly re-architected—to perform well.

And again, this is true to some extent for Cell, but at least Cell gives us something we didn't have before, in the form of multiple, superfast SIMD cores. Also, a move to the Pentium would be a move back toward an architecture that still prefers big, single threads (even if there can be two of them now) and dual processing at best. Cell encourages multithreading and small, dedicated tasks—which Cocoa also encourages—and like PowerPCs generally, is much more MP friendly.

Having said all that, the most obvious upgrade path for the PowerMac is the 900-series PowerPC. The Power5-derived member of that family should answer any performance objections (its big brother, the Power5, certainly has) and the total amount of work required to get OS X and OS X applications running well is just about zero—it's a straight-up PowerPC. Getting the kernel to exploit FastPath, if that makes it down from the Power5, shouldn't take too much work on the part of the kernel team, and no code outside the kernel should know or care whether FastPath is there.
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post #10 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by e1618978
If that is true, then it would be easier to move to the Pentium than the Cell processor.

Why is everyone so hot on the Cell and down on the Pentium?

I know that 8088-family assembly language is crap, but that only affects the compiler writers...

Because the x86 is an architecture that consumes a lot of electrical power to reach the amount of computational power that it does. That is, it is inefficient. It also has the dumbest FPU implementation ever, and a hugely superfluous instruction set. Even the Penitum-M is inefficient. It just knows when to curb the clock.

The current state of the Pentium is purely a manifestation of Microsoft's habit of releasing new OS's for the X86 that require more and more overhead, in conjunction with the consumer fixation that higher clock speed is better. Intel wishes the X86 were dead. Upgrading it siphons off a lot of good engineers that should be working on more promising architectures.

Otherwise, Amorph covers the topic well.
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post #11 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by Splinemodel
Intel wishes the X86 were dead.

Ah, yes, thanks for reminding me of that detail. Yes, Virginia, Intel has been trying to kill x86 for the last decade.

It's hard to do when the world's most entrenched operating system depends on it, though.
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post #12 of 221
Could someone point me to a resource where I could learn about cell? I have some learning to do.
post #13 of 221
<cough>Google</cough>

Linky

Linky
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post #14 of 221
I wonder if Kormac eluded to the cell processor in any of his posts?

I hope Apple ends up using it in some way if it gives their machines a big performance boost.

Should be interesting next week at the International Solid State Circuits Conference.
post #15 of 221
Read this repeatedly until a light bulb turns on above your head:

Quote:
Session 10.2: The Design and Implementation of a First-Generation CELL Processor

A CELL Processor is a multi-core chip consisting of a 64b Power architecture processor, multiple streaming processors, a flexible IO interface, and a memory interface controller. This SoC is implemented in 90nm SOI technology. The chip is designed with a high degree of modularity and reuse to maximize the custom circuit content and achieve a high-frequency clock-rate.


Category: "Things that make you go Hmmmm..."
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post #16 of 221
You should sign NDAs more often, Programmer. Every time you do, your signature gets more true.

BadAndy at Ars also followed that line of thought, apparently with a little help from a friend (way to call him out, too): The real appeal of Cell is that it's not just built around a 64 bit PPC&mdash;er, excuse me, Power architecture processor (gee, like what?), it's a modular architecture. So Microsoft can get one thing for their Xbox, and Sony can get something else for the PS3, and Apple can get something else, and IBM takes it all to the bank.

It's like Book E for performance mavens.

Hmm indeed.
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post #17 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by Amorph
So Microsoft can get one thing for their Xbox...

Would Sony really license the tech to a rival (I assume it is jointly designed)?
Everything I have heard until this point is that Xbox2 will not use Cell (just a customised PPC). If this is the case, where do the patents exist for IBM, say, to design a similar core for M$?

(I really don't know with jointly-engineered projects like this.)

[Edit: Just re-read your post. Sorry, I was assuming you werre talking about Cell specifically rather than IBMs use of Power.]
post #18 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by Programmer
Category: "Things that make you go Hmmmm..."

Cell is going to be built on a 90 nm process? Isn't that going to be a rather power hungry processor judging from the 970fx? Hmmm...
post #19 of 221
What's with all the "hmm's"?

Could someone help this poor ignorant bystander and provide a better explanation, please?

I feel like I'm perpetually in a state of confusion.
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post #20 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by DaveLee
Would Sony really license the tech to a rival (I assume it is jointly designed)?
Everything I have heard until this point is that Xbox2 will not use Cell (just a customised PPC). If this is the case, where do the patents exist for IBM, say, to design a similar core for M$?

(I really don't know with jointly-engineered projects like this.)

[Edit: Just re-read your post. Sorry, I was assuming you werre talking about Cell specifically rather than IBMs use of Power.]

BA's point, over at Ars, is that the Power core looks like it is common between the two. This part is clearly IBM IP. The fact that SMT is talked about implies some kind of a relationship to POWER5, as does the timing (a year after POWER5 arrived). The POWER5's emphasis on low power consumption also fits nicely.

Cell is a whole lot more than the Power core.

Quote:
Cell is going to be built on a 90 nm process? Isn't that going to be a rather power hungry processor judging from the 970fx?

You can't judge one processor by another. There are many design choices and trade offs made in every processor. Plus IBM has some tricks it hasn't yet rolled out into the 970 line of processors, at the 90 nm node.
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post #21 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by rickag
What's with all the "hmm's"?


hmm=Home Media Mac
hmmm= Home Media Mac Mini


(Just to confuse you more. Maybe that way someone will be even more confused than I.)
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post #22 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by Programmer
You can't judge one processor by another. There are many design choices and trade offs made in every processor. Plus IBM has some tricks it hasn't yet rolled out into the 970 line of processors, at the 90 nm node.

Yes, tricks... hmm.

And btw, weren't one of those who said that we've reached the end of MHz scaling. If those tricks work...
post #23 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by THT
Yes, tricks... hmm.

And btw, weren't one of those who said that we've reached the end of MHz scaling. If those tricks work...

Those tricks and design choices are typically trade-offs, so having them work usually costs you something else. I was saying we've reached the end of the cheap-and-easy frequency scaling that has been going on for over a decade. IBM's process tricks might give another 0.5 GHz on the 970FX, but that is a mere 20% over the current machine -- hardly remarkable, and not repeatable. More interesting is that it drops the power/heat on the current speeds.
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post #24 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by Programmer
I was saying we've reached the end of the cheap-and-easy frequency scaling that has been going on for over a decade.

To amplify this point, does anyone remember when Intel would get so much of a clock speed boost from a process improvement that they'd be able to milk it for an entire year or even two, using incremental upgrades? I'm sure Intel remembers them fondly.

AMD taking it to Intel at the high end (of the PC market) began the end of that era, and 90nm finished it with a whimper.

Now, if someone releases an update to a chip that runs 20% faster, it's because they just found a way to make the thing go 20% faster. And that's that, until they find another way.
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post #25 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by Programmer
IBM's process tricks might give another 0.5 GHz on the 970FX, but that is a mere 20% over the current machine -- hardly remarkable, and not repeatable.

This is at 90 nm? If they do as you say, the 970fx would be going from 2 GHz to 3 GHz. That would be remarkable considering everyone elses troubles at 90 nm. Intel only did a little bit better with the Pentium 4 at 130 nm.

Quote:
More interesting is that it drops the power/heat on the current speeds.

Yes, that is an interesting aspect since it would make mobile 970fx systems possible, and we all agree IBM will have to use a combination of micro-architecture design and process tweaking to get there. I'm just surprised that a Cell processor going into a small form factor box will be manufactured on a 90 nm node. A Power derived CPU with multiple "Cell" cores? Sounds like a big chip, just as hot as 970fx, and costly.

If that have a process tweak which allows them to run at less power, through lower voltage or more efficient transistors or both, it good news for both clock rate scaling and mobile systems.

On the really interesting side, the Cell CPU will be using XDR SDRAM. I'll be interested in the performance of that compared to DDR.
post #26 of 221
Cell = PPC980
post #27 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by THT
This is at 90 nm? If they do as you say, the 970fx would be going from 2 GHz to 3 GHz. That would be remarkable considering everyone elses troubles at 90 nm. Intel only did a little bit better with the Pentium 4 at 130 nm.

Last time I checked the 970fx was shipping at 2.5 GHz and has been for 6 months. And the transition to 65 nm isn't expected to improve the clock rates / power curves much, if at all.

Intel went from 3.15 -> 3.8 GHz on 90nm, which is about 20% as well. Of course they didn't gain anything on the first 130->90 switch, but they had tweaked out their 130nm process more than IBM had for the 970.

Quote:
A Power derived CPU with multiple "Cell" cores? Sounds like a big chip, just as hot as 970fx, and costly.

You can't always make assumptions like that. Next week should bring answers.
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post #28 of 221
wow, powerful article about cell and Apples potential in using it. an intereting read, please post feedback...

http://www.blachford.info/computer/Cells/Cell4.html
post #29 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by Programmer
Last time I checked the 970fx was shipping at 2.5 GHz and has been for 6 months. And the transition to 65 nm isn't expected to improve the clock rates / power curves much, if at all.

Intel went from 3.15 -> 3.8 GHz on 90nm, which is about 20% as well. Of course they didn't gain anything on the first 130->90 switch, but they had tweaked out their 130nm process more than IBM had for the 970.

We're arguing over what is remarkable here. Do you believe IBM could have shipped a 2.5 GHz 130-nm 970? If so, I would agree that a 3 GHz 970fx is hardly remarkable. But if you don't think so, what clock could IBM have shipped that 130-nm 970 at? If it is 2 to 2.2 GHz, then a prospective 970fx clock increase to 3 GHz is pretty good scaling for all the troubles seen at 90 nm. That's proportionately better than Intel had done or has chosen to do with Prescott.

Quote:
You can't always make assumptions like that. Next week should bring answers.

The session description says Cell is a "64 bit Power architecture." Once again, it's a question of nomenclature. I'm only taking the terms as they are known to be, and Power means either Power 3, Power 4, or Power 5, and Power 5 is mostly an SMT extension of the Power 4. So, this prospective Cell is a single core Power 4 with auxillary SIMD (streaming) units onboard, I/O and an integrated memory controller fabricated at 90 nm. Sounds very much like a 970fx type of processor in terms of power consumption and die size to me.

If it is a brand new Power ISA microarchitecture, then of course, all bets are off. If it is a Power chip as we know it, than I think it is good news all around. Whether it is a process tweak or a better design for power consumption, I'm sure they can make their way into processors for Apple.
post #30 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by THT
[B]We're arguing over what is remarkable here. Do you believe IBM could have shipped a 2.5 GHz 130-nm 970? If so, I would agree that a 3 GHz 970fx is hardly remarkable. But if you don't think so, what clock could IBM have shipped that 130-nm 970 at? If it is 2 to 2.2 GHz, then a prospective 970fx clock increase to 3 GHz is pretty good scaling for all the troubles seen at 90 nm. That's proportionately better than Intel had done or has chosen to do with Prescott.

I doubt a 2.5 GHz 130 nm 970 was practical to ship, especially given Apple's desire to keep its machines quiet. It may not have even functioned if there was a specific problem with the design.

IBM's 90 nm performance does look like one of the best, but remember that they took one crack at 130 nm and then switched to 90 nm. Intel did quite a bit of refinement on 130 nm, plus they were at a higher clock rate already and the relationship between power and frequency is highly non-linear. Intel has also shown a willingness to ship really hot chips. As a result its hard to compare the two. Compared to the last 10 years, however, a further 20% increase isn't particuarly noteworthy.

Quote:
The session description says Cell is a "64 bit Power architecture." Once again, it's a question of nomenclature. I'm only taking the terms as they are known to be, and Power means either Power 3, Power 4, or Power 5, and Power 5 is mostly an SMT extension of the Power 4. So, this prospective Cell is a single core Power 4 with auxillary SIMD (streaming) units onboard, I/O and an integrated memory controller fabricated at 90 nm. Sounds very much like a 970fx type of processor in terms of power consumption and die size to me.

http://www.power.org

That is what Power architecture means. Wait until next week and you'll see what I mean.

Quote:
If it is a brand new Power ISA microarchitecture, then of course, all bets are off. If it is a Power chip as we know it, than I think it is good news all around. Whether it is a process tweak or a better design for power consumption, I'm sure they can make their way into processors for Apple.

There are shades of grey between the options you outline. Processors are big and complex things, and there are a lot of options even within a single design.

I never said Apple couldn't use them.
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post #31 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by mikenap
wow, powerful article about cell and Apples potential in using it. an intereting read, please post feedback...

http://www.blachford.info/computer/Cells/Cell4.html

This looks to me as if we were about to break some laws of physics (performance-wise). Can anyone in the know tell something on this article?
post #32 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by Programmer



http://www.power.org

That is what Power architecture means. Wait until next week and you'll see what I mean.


Anybody have any ideas why Apple is still absent from those on board on IBM's power list?
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post #33 of 221
Guess we'll find out Monday what it's all about. As far as Apple is concerned, Hannibal at ARS thinks it will not happen just yet.
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post #34 of 221
Of course, Apple being Apple, if it does happen then they're going to want a veil of absolute silence over it.

So IBM might well show off a variant of the Cell architecture that has no business in a Mac, but since Cell is highly modular, all bets are off in the general case.
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post #35 of 221
Anybody notice that this cell processor sounds a lot like a product made by Cyberdyne Systems?

You know, for Sky-Net?
post #36 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by PB
This looks to me as if we were about to break some laws of physics (performance-wise). Can anyone in the know tell something on this article?

That article is crap -- you don't need to know anything about Cell to tell that.
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post #37 of 221
Seconded. Fanboi stuff.
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post #38 of 221
Super Cell article




First of all, down the road Apple could be in a fine position to take advantage of such tech advances. Doubtful if Intel, MS, and Dell could be so nimble.

As an aside, I wonder if it would be the approach for TV's to render raw digital data on the fly. That would circumvent half of the current workflow of content creation, computer rendering, compression, and delivery.
post #39 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by Programmer
That article is crap -- you don't need to know anything about Cell to tell that.

Thanks, for a moment I thought that my common sense detectors were completely off.
post #40 of 221
Quote:
Originally posted by mugwump


First of all, down the road Apple could be in a fine position to take advantage of such tech advances. Doubtful if Intel, MS, and Dell could be so nimble.

As an aside, I wonder if it would be the approach for TV's to render raw digital data on the fly. That would circumvent half of the current workflow of content creation, computer rendering, compression, and delivery.


Wow indeed mugwump!

Sony and Toshiba are already positioning the Cell into their TVs

Cell would seem to be able to create mini render farms on the workstation which would, as you say, reduce by half the effort of content creation. (with perhaps game coding aside)

Rendering and compression are ideal Cell tasks and should show dramatic improvements over current practices. Imagine Core Video being processed by the Cell in everything from the user interface to FCP.

delivery delivery? delivery!

MPEG4 - H264 part 10
IPTV - TV over broadband
INdTV - Al Gore's new venture
1394 - Firewire

THE VISION for the Cell processor as proclaimed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba.

"Breakthrough microprocessor architecture that puts broadband communications right on the chip."


I'm doing a bit of connect the dots here, but I have this sort of unifying theory that mugwump has started with his post.

I'll take Apple's low profile with Power.org as a further manifestation of Apple's obsessive desire for holding their cards close to their chest. To continue the analogy, Apple also has an ace up their sleeve on this one that they will play soon. Core services in Tiger are the smoking gun here for me.

The turn on a dime from all their professed views as shown with the new mini's may also be indicative of how fast Apple could embrace the forgotten spoke to their digital hub - TV and not just any old TV, HDTV!

Get ready for the Apple channel! What does Al Gore know that would cause him to spend 70 million on a cable TV channel?

Quote:
"Among those on the company's advisory board guiding the growth of INdTV is Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The company's COO Mark Goldman was formerly with News Corp. He built a satellite venture in Latin America. Goldman was the president and COO of Sky Latin America Partners prior to teaming up with Gore's venture."
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