More on the Cell Processor
1UP.com has an interview with Dr. Peter Hofstee, a lead engineer from the Cell design team, about the powerful Cell processor to be used in Sony’s upcoming PS3.
The Cell started off as a high-level conversation between CEO-level operatives at Sony and IBM. In the summer of 2000, along with Toshiba, they started hammering out what would become the Cell processor. Here are the two most interesting questions in the short interview:
OPM: How is the multicore design different from just having multiple processors?
PH: We felt we had to do something about the phenomenon known as the memory wall. In the last 20 years, microprocessors have gotten faster by a factor of 1,000, but the memory latency, or the amount of time it takes for memory to keep up with the processor, hasn’t changed. It’s like a bucket brigade with 100 people between you and the water, but because you can only get five buckets going, that immediately tells you that it’s going to be inefficient. For Cell, what we did was use a technique [to make the process much more efficient].
OPM: Is there a point of comparison for the power of the Cell processor?
PH: If you just look at the eight synergistic processors on the chip and the power core as well, on media applications, each of these processors can outperform a PC processor. We usually see a factor-of-10 performance advantage against PC processors, but if you’re doing something with a more traditional workload, then you probably won’t see that type of performance improvement.