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IBM Integrates Cell Into Mainframes For Virtual Worlds

IBM Integrates Cell Into Mainframes For Virtual Worlds

April 26, 2007 | By Jason Dobson

IBM officials have announced that the technology giant is working with Brazilian developer Hoplon Infotainment to integrate IBM's Cell Broadband Engine, which leverages off of the PlayStation 3's Cell processor, within its powerful mainframe computers. The effort, according to IBM, will better allow the company's high-end machines to handle running online games and virtual worlds.

IBM notes that bringing the Cell Broadband Engine, or Cell/B.E., to its mainframe computers will create a platform that is ideally equipped to handle running massive online virtual worlds, as well as complex 3D applications such as those used for mapping, collaborating, and ERP deployment.

Through the partnership, the new specialty mainframes will run Hoplon's online world middleware solution, called bitVerse, which currently under development.

First announced in early 2006, the Cell/B.E. was jointly developed by IBM, Sony Corporation, Sony Computer Entertainment, and Toshiba, and is a "blade" computing system made up of different "specialty processors" used to do different tasks.

Specifically, the Cell chip allows the system to handle extremely processor-intensive graphics applications, the architecture's specialty. The technology is designed to accelerate “compute-intensive applications, offering fast performance for computer entertainment and handhelds, virtual reality, wireless downloads, real-time video chat, interactive TV shows and other "image-hungry" computing environments.”

According to IBM, the relationship between the mainframe and the Cell BE will see the processor handling “complex simulation associated with operating in virtual worlds,” such as enforcing the laws of gravity on objects in the online environment. IBM and Hoplon are also porting Hoplon's software to the Cell BE to handle message passing and physics simulation as well.

"As online environments increasingly incorporate aspects of virtual reality -- including 3D graphics and lifelike, real-time interaction among many simultaneous users -- companies of all types will need a computing platform that can handle a broad spectrum of demanding performance and security requirements," said Jim Stallings, general manager, IBM System z.

"To serve this market, the Cell/B.E. processor is the perfect complement to the mainframe, the only server designed to handle millions of simultaneous users," he added.

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