Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

How Sony's Development of the Cell Processor Benefited Microsoft

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the not-the-outcome-they'd-planned dept.

Microsoft 155

The Wall Street Journal is running an article about a recently released book entitled "The Race for a New Game Machine" which details Sony's development of the Cell processor, written by two of the engineers who worked on it. They also discuss how Sony's efforts to create a next-gen system backfired by directly helping Microsoft, one of their main competitors. Quoting: "Sony, Toshiba and IBM committed themselves to spending $400 million over five years to design the Cell, not counting the millions of dollars it would take to build two production facilities for making the chip itself. IBM provided the bulk of the manpower, with the design team headquartered at its Austin, Texas, offices. ... But a funny thing happened along the way: A new 'partner' entered the picture. In late 2002, Microsoft approached IBM about making the chip for Microsoft's rival game console, the (as yet unnamed) Xbox 360. In 2003, IBM's Adam Bennett showed Microsoft specs for the still-in-development Cell core. Microsoft was interested and contracted with IBM for their own chip, to be built around the core that IBM was still building with Sony. All three of the original partners had agreed that IBM would eventually sell the Cell to other clients. But it does not seem to have occurred to Sony that IBM would sell key parts of the Cell before it was complete and to Sony's primary videogame-console competitor. The result was that Sony's R&D money was spent creating a component for Microsoft to use against it."

cancel ×

155 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

D: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289733)

Sad face

Re:D: (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289753)

Aww, cheer up porch monkey; at least in a million years, you will evolve into a glorious Aryan specimen!

I have altered the deal (4, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289735)

Pray I do not alter it further.

Jeez (3, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289757)

I didn't mean to kill the thread with the second comment, but yeah, is there something else that needs be said to this?

Re:Jeez (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289769)

I didn't mean to kill the thread with the second comment, but yeah, is there something else that needs be said to this?

I find your lack of faith in the first posters disturbing.

Re:Jeez (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290131)

"The most delightful victory over any foe is to persuade his right hand to hack
off his left." -Book of Nimbus

Re:I have altered the deal (3, Funny)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290199)

Here [metacafe.com] is the video to go with your comment for those of us that are visually oriented. It is probably how Sony is felling after finding this out, especially the shoes part. ;-)

Bad Deal All Around. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291421)

For all their cheating, XBox 360 is still at the bottom of the market and losing billions of dollars. Nintendo, by providing a better user interface and input has trounced them all with a simple PowerPC box. I crave better inputs for PS3 but would not touch XBox with a 10 foot pole.

Re:Bad Deal All Around. (1)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 5 years ago | (#26294447)

This is just patently false.

Wii: 24,658,719
Xbox 3: 21,774,542
Playstation 3: 12,769,838

Approximate numbers from nexgenwars.com [nexgenwars.com] , methodology is here. [nexgenwars.com]

Further to this, the Xbox division is earning $178 million per quarter. [joystiq.com] .

By the way, did you know that the Xbox 360 is a PowerPC box too? [wikipedia.org]

E_TOO_VAGUE (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289763)

What parts of the processor did IBM pass on to Microsoft? The XBox 360 processor Xenon is basically a three core hyperthreaded PowerPC. The Playstation 3 has a single PowerPC core (not hyperthreaded) and 7 (or 8) simpler SPU processors.

Re:E_TOO_VAGUE (2, Informative)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290735)

Cell is Hyperthreaded, as any Linux on the PS3 user can show you:

[CronoCloud@mideel ~]$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
cpu : Cell Broadband Engine, altivec supported
clock : 3192.000000MHz
revision : 5.1 (pvr 0070 0501)
 
processor : 1
cpu : Cell Broadband Engine, altivec supported
clock : 3192.000000MHz
revision : 5.1 (pvr 0070 0501)
 
timebase : 79800000
platform : PS3
model : SonyPS3

a few facts please? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289777)

the cell is not "made from scratch". It's based on powerpc. Minus the branch prediction and some other goodies, and with additional cores specialised for numerics called "SPEs". Without the SPEs it's a piece of junk. And the xbox360's processor doesn't have the SPEs.

This article is full of shit.

Big deal if M$ got their hands on a crap, slow design based on the G5 powerpc, and they made it able to execute 2 threads per core and put 3 cores on a die. It has NOTHING LIKE the gigaflops of the cell.

Re:a few facts please? (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290017)

Even the SPEs aren't exactly built from scratch. They're based on the VMX units from the PowerPC 970 with widened register sets and a modified memory architecture with explicit DMA commands. If the meeting in question took place, I'd imagine IBM showed Microsoft the Cell, the PowerPC 980MP, the 40x, and said 'we can do anything on this spectrum - what requirements do you have?'.

The chip they sold to Microsoft in the end is more or less the same design as the PPU core in the Cell, but that, in turn, is an in-order variant of the 970 with a few bits from the POWER4 that were originally dropped (the 970 itself was a cut-down POWER4 with a VMX unit bolted on) re-added.

IBM would be crazy not to reuse parts of old designs on any new one. They've spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating a library of CPU designs that fit anywhere from a mobile phone to a supercomputer. You're very unlikely to have a set of requirements that they can't meet with a tweaked version of one of their existing designs, and if you really need them to work from scratch then you probably can't afford the final product.

Re:a few facts please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26293121)

The PPE is not a derivative of POWER4 That's ridiculous!

Where the hell did you get that ?

Re:a few facts please? (2, Interesting)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 5 years ago | (#26294319)

I came here to make pretty much the same point. IBM has a habit of reusing the same microarchitecture with tweaks to run different variants of the POWER or PowerPC instruction set as needed to fit a particular application niche.

I suspect IBM didn't say specifically "Here's the Cell Broadband Architecture and what it can do." Rather, since the Xbox360's CPU doesn't have any SPEs, I imagine the presentation had more to do with what the PPU would be capable of, and was part of the IBM processor roadmap anyway.

Re:a few facts please? (1, Flamebait)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290067)

Big deal if M$ got their hands on a crap, slow design based on the G5 powerpc, and they made it able to execute 2 threads per core and put 3 cores on a die. It has NOTHING LIKE the gigaflops of the cell.

And the observation I have to make on that is - you are right, big deal because MS 'obviously' getting the inferior CPU has certainly affected market share against them, hasn't it? Or is it really a case of the Cell hasn't lived up to the massive hype granted it in the run up to the PS3s release?

Re:a few facts please? (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290211)

They are very different approaches. The 360's CPU is basically a 3-core, 6-context, in-order variant of the POWER4 with a vector unit. In terms of pure number crunching ability, it's pretty pathetic next to the Cell. On the other hand, it is based on a model that we have spent 30 years building compilers for. You only need to write slightly-parallel, conventional code to get close to 100% of the theoretical performance out of it.

In contrast, the Cell has one PPU which is roughly equivalent to one context on the 360's CPU (somewhere between 1/3 and 1/6 of the speed). It also has 7 SPUs. These are very fast, but they're basically small DSPs. They have very wide vector units and are limited to working on 256KB of data at a time. You can use them to implement accelerator kernels for certain classes of algorithm, but getting good performance out of them is hard.

In terms of on-paper performance, the Cell is a long way out in front, but it is a long way behind in ease of programming, meaning that you generally get a much smaller fraction of the maximum throughput.

Re:a few facts please? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290311)

Thats precisely my point - the Cells supposed technical superiority doesn't matter because it isnt being utilised to anywhere near its capability, and doesn't look to be any time soon.

At the end of the day, the argument that the Cell is harder to develop for is technically valid, but totally missing the point - the market isnt about to say 'ahhh, OK then! Lets all wait for the developers to get their shit together!'.

Or in other words, going for the technically superior solution is not necessarily the best decision when it comes to consumer items...

Re:a few facts please? (2, Informative)

ZosX (517789) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291173)

It was the same problem with the PS2. It took developers a few good years to really start to push the hardware. Look at some of the later games that really push the envelope like say Final Fantasy XII or Shadow of Colossus. The PS2 was certainly capable of some nice visuals but the other consoles were ultimately superior while basically using off the shelf hardware. Developers were pushing the Xbox and the Gamecube almost nearly from day one. I think the cell has backfired, but not for the reason that Microsoft shares aspects of their core. Parallel processing is indeed the future, but not in the form of vector units, but rather general purpose chips. The one size fits all approach is inefficient but at the same time it has been the approach that has worked to fit the needs of modern computer users. Hardware should get easier to program on over time, certainly not harder. What happened to those predictions that in the future the average user will be able to code just by throwing some GUI elements together and maybe even describing the program to the computer a bit and having it generate the program for you? How far away are we from that day? (It seems an awfully long way away and the visual IDE is not the same as what I am describing here)

Re:a few facts please? (1)

johanatan (1159309) | more than 5 years ago | (#26293053)

What happened to those predictions that in the future the average user will be able to code just by throwing some GUI elements together and maybe even describing the program to the computer a bit and having it generate the program for you? How far away are we from that day?

Those predictions were simply naive. Complexity of programming is not going away anytime soon. If it were, then we would have hard AI (i.e., natural language processing, etc.) by now (something many also naively predicted).

Re:a few facts please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26294963)

The programming you are describing is possible, and I believe their are some projects that support it. The problem, is that all those projects are basically kid toys, and not serious programming systems. Such graphical 'languages' really make poor actual languages, but are execellent puzzles to help learn programming style problem solving.

Re:a few facts please? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26290187)

Fuck you SONY FANBOY!!!! Eat Bill Gates' ASS!!!

Re:a few facts please? (1)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290777)

Although the Cell does have more raw power than the 360 CPU, the SPUs have to do the brunt of the transform and lighting for rendering on the PS3, whereas that's handled by the GPU on the 360.

For games you can't really compare the CPU on its own as so much work gets handed off to the GPU. The PS3 wins on CPU power, the 360 on GPU power.

Re:a few facts please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26294459)

You do not understand what PowerPC actually is. Once you understand what you're talking about you will realise it's you that's full of shit.

I don't think it's quite as they tell it (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289785)

I'm not a games console programmer, but I understood that the 'core' of the Cell and the chip used in the XBox 360 are both derivatives of the standard PowerPC chip. This smells like a couple of trolls being mischievous. IBM can do what they like with PowerPC, and that includes selling it to both Micrsoft for the XBox 360 and to Nintendo to power the Wii.

Sony's payback comes when Playstation3 programmers learn to fully utilize the Cell architecture.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (4, Funny)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289877)

Sony's payback comes when Playstation3 programmers learn to fully utilize the Cell architecture.

It has direct hardware support for rootkits.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289977)

Sony's payback comes when Playstation3 programmers learn to fully utilize the Cell architecture.

Yeah, that EIEIO instruction is a real bitch: http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/systems/index.jsp?topic=/com.ibm.aix.aixassem/doc/alangref/eieio.htm [ibm.com]

Or maybe it is a joke. I dunno.

The Cell architecture just isn't that useful (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291157)

Sony's payback comes when Playstation3 programmers learn to fully utilize the Cell architecture.

As someone else pointed out, if that was going to happen, it would have happened by now.

The fundamental problem with the Cell is that each SPU only has 256KB of RAM. (Not 256MB, 256KB.) Data can be moved in and out of main memory in the background with explicit DMA-like operations. Given that model, you have to turn your problem into a data-flow problem, where a data set is pumped sequentially through a Cell processor. The audio guys love this. It's useful for compression and decompression. It's a pain for everything else.

It's not good for graphics. There's not enough memory for a full frame, not enough memory for textures, not enough memory for the geometry, and not enough processors to divide the frame up into squares or bands. Sony had to hang a conventional nVidia GPU on the back to fix that. It's useful for particle systems. If you need snow, or waves, or grenade fragments, the Cell is helpful, because that's a pipelineable problem.

There are some other special-purpose situations where a Cell SPU is useful. But not many. If each SPU had, say, 16MB, the things might be more useful. But at 256KB, it's like having a DSP chip. The Cell part belongs in a cell phone tower, processing signal streams, not in a game machine. It's a great cryptanalysis engine, though. Cryptanalysis is all crunch, with little intercommunication, so that fits the Cell architecture.

We're back to a historical truth about multi-CPU architecture - there are only two things that work. Shared-memory multiprocessors ("multi-core" CPUs, or the Xbox 360) work; they're well understood and straightforward to program. Clusters, like Google/Amazon/any web farm, also work; each machine has enough resources to do its own work and can live with limited intercommunication. Everything in between those extremes has historically been a flop: SIMD machines (Illiac IV through Thinking Machines), dataflow machines (tried in the 1980s), and mesh machines (nCube, BBN Butterfly). The only exception to this are graphics processors and supercomputers derived from them. [nvidia.com] That, not the Cell, is cutting edge architecture.

I've met one of the architects of the Cell processor, and his attitude was "build it and they will come". They didn't.

Re:The Cell architecture just isn't that useful (2, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291507)

I never thought the cell was intended for graphics anyway. 3D hardware is simple SIMD, with very long pipelines. Unless you're after ray tracing, a more general purpose chip would be a waste of resources.

Cell is probably good for complex physics, and sophisticated AI, but that's a bit of a problem because programmers haven't really worked out how to use the resources efficiently yet. Game developers have a very procedural approach to solving problems.

Re:The Cell architecture just isn't that useful (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26291749)

Indeed. There's really no reason why the 256 KB of memory should be any particular obstacle, as long as you have decent access to main memory, and if you program correctly. It's bigger than a lot of L1 caches, after all, and it's on chip so it's very high speed memory.

Yes, you'll sacrifice some performance over purely streamable problems, but that would happen anyway. It's just making the trade-off explicit.

The problem, of course, is that you have to do your own cache management, and most programmers haven't had to think about that since the day hardware caches were invented.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26293161)

If you look at the reference URL you gave, it is actually AIX documentation. If they expect game developers code in mainframe or gigantic server style to get the power of a gaming chip, trouble begins right there.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (3, Insightful)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290041)

Sony's payback comes when Playstation3 programmers learn to fully utilize the Cell architecture.

That statement is fast becoming another hallowed urban myth of gaming.

Techspecs aside, do you really believe the hype when absolutely nothing has come out on ps3 that blows the 360's capabilities away? Haven't they had enough time? Where is the practical proof? Folding at home performance? Not really applicable.

Not to mention the fact that no developer making cross platform games is going to go very much further on a ps3 version. There's just simply no point.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (1)

xombo (628858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290155)

...do you really believe the hype when absolutely nothing has come out on ps3 that blows the 360's capabilities away? Haven't they had enough time? Where is the practical proof?

Metal Gear.

'nuff said.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (3, Interesting)

Galactic Dominator (944134) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290251)

As an owner of both consoles, MGS4 is the only ps3 that even rivals the good 360 games in terms of graphics. It is no where close to blowing 360 games out the water. However, at the ps3 doesn't lock up nearly as much and kicks ass at folding.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26293487)

I've yet been shown that such a thing as a good looking 360 game exists.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (2)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290075)

Sony's payback comes when Playstation3 programmers learn to fully utilize the Cell architecture.

Whens that going to be? How long is the customer base willing to wait for the developers to get their act together?

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290215)

How many developers can afford to? The Cell is very fast, but it has a very different programming model to most other processors, and to all other mainstream gaming processors. If you write optimised code for the Cell, it's investment that only goes in to the PS3 port. If you write optimised code for a conventional architecture then it makes every version better (or, if it's just a small amount of asm tweaking, costs a lot less than an SPU rewrite). Which would you choose?

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290339)

Very good point :) The benefit for the developer is very niche - especially when there is no guarantee the next PlayStation architecture will follow the same lines...

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (1)

majorme (515104) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291483)

sony already said ps4 may use the same tech [shacknews.com] .
they may revise the architecture though as it's clearly not meant for games.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26291779)

How many developers can afford to? The Cell is very fast, but it has a very different programming model to most other processors, and to all other mainstream gaming processors. If you write optimised code for the Cell, it's investment that only goes in to the PS3 port. If you write optimised code for a conventional architecture then it makes every version better (or, if it's just a small amount of asm tweaking, costs a lot less than an SPU rewrite). Which would you choose?

I don't agree to this, time spent writing code for the Cell isn't necessarily a waste of time.

See the cell is basically a multiprocessor with manual cache management- while all common processors has automatic cache management.
However the work you spend on optimizing your code for manual cache management will pay off on the Cell- pretty dramatically actually, but yes it takes along time and is alot of work- and probably not an option unless you write the game from ground up with the Cell inmind.
However this "extra" steps shouldn't really hurt performance on other platforms- it "just" adds extra work.

I don't think the Cell was a masterpiece in this aspect, IBM and not to mention Sony totally ignored the fact that most game developers has a pretty tight schedule, but to claim that it's a waste of efforts- something only the Cell will have use of is not accurate.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26295315)

End of February.
http://ps3.ign.com/dor/objects/748475/killzone-next-gen/videos/VideoForeplay_KillzoneP1.html

Wow! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26292761)

There are still people who believe the PS3 has a chance of coming anywhere other than last place in the current generation console face-off?

That's point of view is so 2008 and oh so backwards! Sony's killers were MGS4, LBP and FFXIII, the first two are out and haven't caused any gain on the 360 (in fact, the PS3 is losing more ground now than it was a year ago) and FFXIII is now coming out on the 360 too.

The PS3 has failed, perhaps TFA is right as to why, perhaps not, but whatever, one things for certain, Sony made serious mistakes with the PS3 that have sent them flying from 1st place to last place and that aint gonna change this console generation.

Re:I don't think it's quite as they tell it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26294347)

I'm not a games console programmer, but I understood that the 'core' of the Cell and the chip used in the XBox 360 are both derivatives of the standard PowerPC chip.

There is no such thing as a "standard PowerPC chip." PowerPC and POWER is an architectural specification and there are a wide variety of implementations of those specifications, ranging from embedded system-on-chip CPUs all the way to supercomputer processors.

The story here is that IBM created a specific PowerPC implementation which serves as the "Power Processing Element" in the Cell implementation in the Playstation 3 and then sold the same implementation to Microsoft for the Xenon CPU in the Xbox360. Note that the PS3's PPE and the Xenon's cores are not completely identical. The PPE has the AltiVec SIMD instruction set also found in some of Freescale's and IBM's other PowerPC CPUs, while the Xenon uses a modified/extended version called VMX128.

Cell, by the way, is also only a specification - the PS3's processor is one implementation of it. There are Cell implementations with fewer SPEs for cost- and power-sensitive applications, and IBM are making CPUs based on an updated Cell spec for supercomputing applications.

That's Disgusting... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289801)

in so many levels.

Can't believe Sony would be so negligent not obtaining any exclusivity agreements against its competitors.

Can't believe IBM would permit such an arrangement; and carry out the release of the Cell Processor designs w/o Sony and Toshiba's willful consent. Bad Practice, Bad PR. I don't give a rip about making money at any costs. Now which major Japanese Company would be foolish enough to approach IBM's hardware team after this?

That's what happens when you delegate too much R&D, I guess...

OTOH (3, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289821)

It looks like the engineers who actually make stuff are in charge. I know that's not as good to you as lawyer-based engineering, but some of us prefer physics-based engineering, for spice. OK?

Please don't sue me.

Re:That's Disgusting... (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292983)

Can't believe IBM would permit such an arrangement; and carry out the release of the Cell Processor designs w/o Sony and Toshiba's willful consent.

In the business world I believe Sony and Toshiba gave willful consent by not having some sort of period of exclusivity to the new technology built into the contract. Naturally they'd would have needed to pay more for it, but it would have protected their interests better.
In business terms it's like complaining your prostitute was seeing other people behind your back and you got the clap because of it.

And they both stole from Apple and Nintendo? (5, Insightful)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289817)

This is really kind of misleading. The PowerPC, which is at the core of the Cell and is what MS uses as the cores of the Xbox 360, has been IBM's baby for years.

The Xbox 360 uses 3 of the cores. The Cell uses one of the cores plus 8 SPEs (6 of which you can actually use in a game). If you will recall, the Wii uses a PowerPC too, a slightly beefed up Gamecube CPU which IBM made for Nintendo even before they made Cell. And of course Apple used to use PowerPCs (and IBM itself did and does, for servers).

Anyhow, without the Cell's SPEs, there's not a lot to really 'steal'. The lack of SPEs is what makes the Xbox 360 so easy to program for, but the SPEs are what really define the Cell and make it such a floating point crunching monster (better suited for supercomputing than writing video games for in my opinion, and that's not intended as a dis here).

Re:And they both stole from Apple and Nintendo? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289933)

Actually PowerPC is descendant of IBM's POWER2 processor. POWER and POWER2 processors were used in supercomputers and servers.

Re:And they both stole from Apple and Nintendo? (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26293099)

To be more direct and give a clue about the true power of POWER family (which is at POWER6 level), the PPC 970, Apple G5 CPU is a POWER4 "light edition" chip. One can imagine how advanced POWER6 is.

I still think the issue is x86 (windows) compatibility, portable support and never to forget the lack of small time developer support from IBM as the reason of Apple's switch to Intel.

What A Sad And Stupid Person (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26291075)

"The lack of SPEs is what makes the Xbox 360 so easy to program for, but the SPEs are what really define the Cell and make it such a floating point crunching monster (better suited for supercomputing than writing video games for in my opinion, and that's not intended as a dis here)."

Seeing someone spouting such idiotic fanboy drivel is just so sad.

Instead of actually learning about the amazing technology that modern consoles are based on, you instead fill your head with pathetic fanboy bullshit.

Re:What A Sad And Stupid Person (1)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26294273)

Yes, yes, everyone who disagrees with you is a fanboy and an idiot.

I suppose on learning I've actually written programs using the SPEs on the PS3 under linux (it's 'easy', YDL supplies the tools like spu-gcc and elfspe, but you have to write in assembly language or did at the time) you'll just be horrified that I could have done that but not learned anything about how unconditionally AWESUM the PS3 is.

I meant what I said and I think it's a reasonable statement. The Cell is unparalleled at crunching floating point numbers if you can keep the SPEs supplied with data - unfortunately that's also the problem, and one that is far more easily solved in the supercomputing scenario.

Re:What A Sad And Stupid Person (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26295313)

The Cell is unparalleled at crunching floating point numbers if you can keep the SPEs supplied with data

Only single-precision though. Double-precision performance pretty pathetic. IBM have released an updated CBE spec with better double-precision performance and some other improvements but AFAIK these chips are not used in the PS3, only in IBM's Cell blades and the like.

It also helped MS (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289825)

Because it was a really misdirected effort when it came to a console. Sony really had no idea what the hell they were doing as far as making a chip for their console. Originally, they thought the Cell would be the graphics chip. Ya well turned out not to be near powerful enough for that, so late in the development cycle they went to nVidia to get a chip. Problem was, with the time frame they needed, they couldn't get it very well customized.

For example in a console, you normally want all the RAM shared between GPU and CPU. There's no reason to have them have separate RAM modules. The Xbox 360 does this, there's 512MB of RAM that is usable in general. The PS3 doesn't, it had 256MB for each CPU and GPU. Reason is that's how nVidia GPUs work in PCs and that's where it came from. nVidia didn't have the time to make them a custom one for the console, as ATi did for Microsoft. This leads to situations where the PS3 runs out of memory for textures and the 360 doesn't. It also means that the Cell can't fiddle with video RAM directly. It's power could perhaps be better used if it could directly do operations at full speed on data in VRAM but it can't.

So what they ended up with is a neat processor that is expensive, and not that useful. The SPEs that make up the bulk of the Cell's muscle are hard to use in games given the PS3's setup, and often you are waiting on the core to get data to and from them.

It's a neat processor, but a really bad idea for a video game console. Thus despite the cost and hype, the PS3 isn't able to outdo the 360 in terms of graphics (in some games it even falls behind).

I really don't know what the hell Sony was thinking with putting a brand new kind of processor in a console. I'm willing to bet in 10 years there are compilers and systems out there that make real good use of the Cell. However that does you no good with games today.

Thus we see the current situation of the PS3 having weak sales as compares to the 360 and Wii. It is high priced, with the idea that it brings the best performance, but that just doesn't bare out in reality.

Re:It also helped MS (2, Informative)

master_p (608214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289921)

I don't think the PS3 has the problem you mention (SPEs not being able to work directly on VRAM). It has a huge bus and it can easily stream huge amount of texture data from the SPE cores to the GPU.

Re:It also helped MS (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289985)

Specs on it I see show the system bus as being around 2GB/sec. That's comparable to PCIe (about the same as an 8x connection). While that's fine, it isn't really enough to do much in terms of back and forth operations. You'll find on a PC if you try that things get real slow. You need to send the data to the graphics card and have it work on its own RAM.

Now that isn't to say that you can't do things to the data before you send it, but then that's of limited use. What I'm talking about is doing things like, say, you write code that handles some dynamic lighting that the CPU does. So it goes in and modifies the texture data directly in VRAM. Well you can't really do that over a bus that slow. 2GB sounds like a lot but it is an order of magnitude below the speed that the VRAM works at. It is too slow to be doing the "read data, run math, write data, repeat a couple million times a frame" sort of thing that you'd be talking about.

You see the same sort of thing on a PC. While in theory PCIe lets you use system memory for your GPU transparently, in reality you take a massive hit if you do. The PCIe bus is just way too slow to keep up with higher resolution, high frame rate rendering.

So while it's fine in terms of the processor getting the data ready and sending it over to the GPU (which is what is done) it isn't a fast enough bus to have the SPEs act as additional shaders, which is what they'd probably be the most useful for.

Re:It also helped MS (2, Informative)

hptux06 (879970) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290035)

2Gb/s? The RSX is on the FlexIO bus, giving it ~20Gb/s to play with according to specs [ign.com] .

Re:It also helped MS (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26292557)

OP is talking about gigabytes per sec (GB/s), not gigabits per secont (Gb/s). 20Gb/s = 2.5 GB/s. Everything the OP says is accurate. 20 gigabit isn't that fast, especially for an internal bus.

Oh God What An Idiotic Fanboy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26290947)

Let me guess, ten years ago you used to write similar idiotic garbage about how 'teh Dreamcast is more powerful than teh PS2'.

It is sad that crap sites like beyond3d and others from which you obviously are parroting your inane bullshit are so prevalent now. It used to be that morons like you would just sit around babbling about which console had 'more bits'.

 

Re:It also helped MS (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290553)

I don't think the PS3 has the problem you mention (SPEs not being able to work directly on VRAM). It has a huge bus and it can easily stream huge amount of texture data from the SPE cores to the GPU.

Well, the PS3 DOES have the problem he mentions. The PPE ends up being mostly a means to shovel data into and out of SPEs and you can barely use it, which is another reason this article is fucking stupid. On the PS3 the PPC is a bus driver. On the Xbox 360, the PPCs are the main processors.

Re:It also helped MS (5, Informative)

Zixx (530813) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290043)

For example in a console, you normally want all the RAM shared between GPU and CPU. There's no reason to have them have separate RAM modules. The Xbox 360 does this, there's 512MB of RAM that is usable in general. The PS3 doesn't, it had 256MB for each CPU and GPU. Reason is that's how nVidia GPUs work in PCs and that's where it came from. nVidia didn't have the time to make them a custom one for the console, as ATi did for Microsoft. This leads to situations where the PS3 runs out of memory for textures and the 360 doesn't. It also means that the Cell can't fiddle with video RAM directly. It's power could perhaps be better used if it could directly do operations at full speed on data in VRAM but it can't.

Being a (former) PS3 and 360 dev, I have to say this is not true. Let's start with the memory split. Both consoles have about 20GB/s of memory bandwidth per memory system. Only the PS3 has two of them, giving it twice the memory bandwidth. The 360 compensates for that by having EDRAM attached to the GPU, which removes the ROP's share from your bandwidth budget. Especially with a lot of overdraw, the bandwidth needed by the ROPs can get huge (20GB/s, anyone?), so this would be a nice solution where it not for two things: the limited EDRAM-size and the costs of resolving from EDRAM to DRAM.
The RSX can also read and write both to XDR (main memory) and DDR (VRAM), giving it access to all of memory. The reason it is tighter on texture memory is because the OS is heavier.

About access to VRAM, it is true that reading from VRAM is something you don't want the Cell to do. It's a 14MB/s bus, so it is of no practical use for texture data. Writing into VRAM is actually pretty ok, as it's at 5GB/s, which is more or less achievable without trouble. At 60fps that's more than 80MB per frame.

In general, both design teams made sound decisions. The 360 has a significant ease-of-use advantage to PC developers with DirectX experience. The PS3 on the other hand is a lot more to-the-metal, but allows for some pretty crazy stuff. Sadly, most development these days is cross-platform, so you won't see a lot Cell-specific solutions. It's just not cost-effective.

Re:It also helped MS (4, Interesting)

xero314 (722674) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290049)

There are a number of errors in the comment above and a number of oversights.

First it is true that the Graphics processing of the PS3 was originally intended to be handled by a Cell processor, but this is not the same as saying the Cell processor was built to be a graphics processor. The original specs for the PS3 included 4 fully functional cell processors. This would have meant that there would be no need for dedicated GPU. Time and cost made this configuration prohibited.

The reason the PS3 does not have dedicated memory is because it is a very different design. First the PS3 contains a very high speed data bus, which allows the system to keep it's lower amount of memory full of the data it needs at any given time, with no need to store data not actively in use. Secondly the GPU in the PS3 has direct access to almost all of the memory in the system (480MB to be exact). It's just not the same picture that some people would like to paint. Dedicated memory has it's advantages (which is why all high end PC GPUs have such).

Now the reason that Sony, Toshiba and IBM design the Cell and crammed it into a PS3, prematurely, is ingenious, but we wont see this for a number of years. The Cell processor is designed from the ground up to work effective as a single node of a multi processor system. This means that you can include more than one, utilize the same code, and get a much faster program rate. What this means is that for computing today you can use a single Cell processor and have a fast machine. In the future you can have a machine with 4, 8, 16, or more cell processors and have an unbelievable fast machine. On top of that speed you also get a very energy efficient machine. Take a look at the top 500 supercomputer list to see what a difference the cell processor makes. Putting in the PS3 on the other hand was a good move because it meant mass production and greatly reducing costs so that they can finally build the system they want in the next console generation.

Ok I'm to tired to finish this, but as you can see if you look, the cell is an interesting chip with great potential, and has already surpassed other chips a number of applications.

Re:It also helped MS (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291017)

Problem with this assumption simply is that the processor itself is fast, which the cell obviously just is in data processing, the core of the cell sucks due to being a powerpc stripped from anything which even remotely would give it speed. You basically can see that at the PS3, the 2d processing of the PS3 is awesome I have yet to see a better MPEG2 scaling, but problems start wherever more is needed than data shoveling, then suddenly games start to become slower than their xbox counterparts etc...
I personally am not sure if the cell really is such a good idea, modern graphics processors have way better vector units than the cell ever is and the parallelization on the processor level is driven forward on other architectures more impressively. All it needs to combine both is a faster bus than PCIX is to gain the needed results!

The cell however in the long run might end up as a cheap processing solution for consumer electronics and that is exactly what it was designed for!
(So to say a sony cpu which can be used for most of their consumer devices which mainly need a sound and image processor!)

Re:It also helped MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26294217)

so what you're saying is that sony has done MS a favour by using the cell in the PS3, which will mean when the next xbox comes to fruition, the cost of 3-6 cell processors (which the next xbox could very well use) will be cheaper? yeah, that's a definite advantage for sony.

Re:It also helped MS (2, Informative)

hptux06 (879970) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290081)

The SPEs that make up the bulk of the Cell's muscle are hard to use in games given the PS3's setup, and often you are waiting on the core to get data to and from them.

While I agree the SPEs are a pain in the neck to program for, one of their redeeming features is that they use asynchronous IO when writing/reading to/from main memory. One of the key design points with Cell was that modern processors spend an enormous amount of time waiting on memory operations to complete, something that gets worse when you introduce extra processors competing for memory cycles. An individual SPE can be reading in one set of data, writing back another, and processing a third all at the same time, there's no need to wait on data transfers.

Granted though, this is only actually useful in limited situations, they're rubbish for general logic operations.

Re:It also helped MS (2, Interesting)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290095)

Well the idea of sony was to advance the PS2 design further, in my opinion a broken design having two SIMD Vector processors doing everything.
They probably wanted to reduce the design down to one SIMD processor doing everything.
The design of Sony seems to be vector processing is everything you dont need multithreading anyway. The problem with this approach is that even for modern games you need a good mix of everything, good vector processing for graphical stuff and physics, good general purpose processing and multiple cores for the application logic. I personally think Microsofts approach despite the obvious quality problems of the console (which stems mostly from Microsoft internal management decisions, you can read that up) is dead on, while Sonys approach is totally broken even on the PS2, you can remember the complaints of the developers how hard it was to handle the PS2, if it wasnÂt for the success of the hardware among the customers developers probably would have neglegted it due to the fact that pushing an application logic into dual vector processors is a rather hard task. But tools covered that over time!

Re:It also helped MS (3, Insightful)

Otis_INF (130595) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290497)

Well the idea of sony was to advance the PS2 design further, in my opinion a broken design having two SIMD Vector processors doing everything

It's not broken, it's just an advanced system so a developer who wants to write really fast code has to know how it works. If you look at God of war 2 for example, what the engine can do on a system with 32MB of ram and a pretty slow CPU, it really shows that a skilled developer who knows what s/he's doing can get the results desired.

I.o.w.: a 'lamer' can't get the performance desired. Well, what a shame, ain't it? If one really understands what it takes to write 3D engine code, it shouldn't be hard to understand that what the PS3 offers is in theory not really broken, but an opportunity to really get results which are beyond what one could imagine.

Sure it's hard to write that code, but that's no different from writing solid, performing, scalable data-access code for example. It doesn't require thousands of developers to write that code: only a few are required, they can write the hard part, the rest of the developers can build on top of that. After all, a game is often mostly written in a script-like language of the engine or C/C++ utilizing engine libraries, not a lot of people developing games are really writing engine cores.

Re:It also helped MS (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290911)

Well the problem with the simd approach simply is, is it worth it. You wont gain that much, you can use simd in classical mathematical operations which needs matrices, that reduces them to sound, 2d/3d processing, and to some physics depending on the power. For graphics dedicated hardware is more expensive but better. This works out for some games, but makes the engine programming 10 times harder than it needs to be. Microsoft went the PC route successfully! The problem with the simd approach simply is, the processors suck at everything else then pure number crunching big time. So you end up with an architecturen which is not fast enough as a dedicated graphics processor in the simd area (due to costs mostly) and sucks a lot as general graphics processing unit. To get it up to speed you have to get down to the iron and spend 10 times the effort to achieve some results.

Again is it worth it? In case of the PS2 the huge install base justified to support the architecture. In case of the PS3 only Sony itself goes the extra mile!

Re:It also helped MS (2)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291987)


It's not broken, it's just an advanced system so a developer who wants to write really fast code has to know how it works.

Presumably spoken by such a developer. That's great if you're a super-star and want to develop specifically for that machine. But what about the game development company who's looking to make a buck? Superstar developers are by definition, rare. Or maybe you ARE a superstar, and care more about cross-platform, or productivity?

Designing a system that requires the developers to be extraordinary (or at least SOME to be extrodinary) is a broken model from the game company's perspective, and from the gamers perspective. Harder to develop for = less developers = less high quality games = less money. So how is this not "broken" for anyone except the highly talented willing and able to learn the specifics of this particular system?

Re:It also helped MS (2, Interesting)

Otis_INF (130595) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290463)

It also means that the Cell can't fiddle with video RAM directly. It's power could perhaps be better used if it could directly do operations at full speed on data in VRAM but it can't.

Everyone who has written assembler code for an Amiga 500 knows that this isn't true: if you have multiple processors fiddling with data in videomemory, they also share a bus, and that sharing is precisely why it makes it slow. At least compared to memory which is only for 1 processor.

Microsoft's 512MB memory runs at a very slow speed compared to the 3ghz frequency the PS3 cpu memory runs on. It's not a surprise why this is: the bus is shared: display hardware, video chip, main cpu, all have to utilize a bus to the same memory. To schedule all these requests, you have to use even/odd cycle schemes or similar, you can't use the bus all for one chip. 'DMA' only helps you if you own the bus to the memory, which is what the PS3 hardware gives you: very fast data crunchers in the CPU space and a videochip which can do whatever it wants in videomemory.

That the PS3 runs out of texture memory is not really an argument as well: one can easily generate /unpack textures in cpu memory for usage in video memory, as the speed difference is significant. Though what happens is that multi-platform engines in general tend to write most stuff in shaders and want to use a big main memory block for texture memory as that's easier and 'it works on xbox'. Porting it over to ps3 works, unless you have a need for more than a given threshold of texture memory, which gives problems which aren't easy to solve.

It's partly lazyness really: you've to solve it once and you can re-use the engine for multiple games on the multi-platforms you want to support. The question is: do you want to write that special SPU using optimization code or not? More and more studios are willing to do so. Not because they want to, but because they have to: once Sony starts releasing more and more games exclusively for PS3 developed using their maturing engines (e.g. KZ2, uncharted 2 etc.), keeping up with that for a multi-platform game really requires that PS3 optimizations are in place, otherwise the multi-platform game will suck in comparison with the ps3 exclusives. As Sony owns more studios than MS and nintendo combined, this is a matter of time.

Re:It also helped MS (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291065)

The question is more alike, does anyone outside of sony wants to use the extram stuff given, the other problem is, what are the benefits, can you achieve even some?
The problem the PS3 currently simply has, it lacks cores, it lacks general purpose computing power. You cannot vectorize everything. All it does well is feed data and process matrices, but that is not everything, you might get decent particle effects you might get impressive physics, but even on the graphics side a 3 year old nvidia graphics processor is way faster than what sonys internal cell delivers. Now skip ahead 3 years and you have processing power on a single mid range pc card, which excels the entire ps3 both in speed and memory, add to that a decent general purpose cpu and you can see that the PS3 did not even survive 2 years compared to the PC.
So now we have the xbox with around the same processing power a pc had 2 years ago (well the cpu sucks but at least it still has multiple cores to handle parallel tasks well) and a similar programming model, and you have the PS3 with an archtecture rather similar to program directly into a graphics card with an addon processor attached and you can see which platform to optimize for.
It is not the PS3....!

Re:It also helped MS (2, Insightful)

faragon (789704) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292851)

Microsoft's 512MB memory runs at a very slow speed compared to the 3ghz frequency the PS3 cpu memory runs on. It's not a surprise why this is: the bus is shared: display hardware, video chip, main cpu, all have to utilize a bus to the same memory. To schedule all these requests, you have to use even/odd cycle schemes or similar, you can't use the bus all for one chip.

RAM access cycle interleaving works for pre-burst memories (e.g. DRAM, SRAM). Current synchronous RAMs (since late nineties SDRAM) operate in bursts, i.e., the address is set in the bus, and then, at every clock a read (or write) operation is performed, being the next address is increased implicetely (burst transfer). So my bet is that there is not RAM cycle interleaving for modern synchronous DRAMs, as it would be very complex and nonsens to add a "interleaving logic" in between the DRAM controller and the CPUs or DMA controllers.

Re:It also helped MS (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290573)

I really don't know what the hell Sony was thinking with putting a brand new kind of processor in a console. I'm willing to bet in 10 years there are compilers and systems out there that make real good use of the Cell. However that does you no good with games today.

It IS a bit hilarious isn't it? The Playstation murdered the Saturn in part because it was easier to develop for, with one CPU (a MIPS core at that!) and one graphics chip. Then Sony completely blew it with the PS2, made the most complicated video game console to program for ever and Microsoft made huge inroads. Then they blew it again with the PS3. A majority of developers willing to speak on such issues despise both systems. Sony would be out of the video game market completely at this point if it weren't for Xbox 360 RROD.

Re:It also helped MS (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290765)

Well considering that the PS2 was the most successfull console ever and is STILL going strong, Sony must have done something right.

Re:It also helped MS (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291085)

Consumerwise they did right by including DVD and they could ride on the PS1, it gave the machine enough momentum to program for (after all the developers are the last ones to be asked whether it was worthwhile to develop for a platform) that does not change the fact that developers still hate the platform, and they similarily hate the PS3 for exactly the same reason!
You can see that at the quality, outside of sonys own development all stuff done for the ps3 is a rather unoptimized quick port, often the PS3 version is the worst one, due to the lack of horsepower on the PS3 side!

The poor graphics is a learning curve issue (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291679)

I was watching interviews with PS3 developers, and one who had made a decent-looking game said all they used was the PowerPC core and none of the SPEs.

Any performance deficiency compared to the 360 is just a programming issue. The hardware is there.

Re:The poor graphics is a learning curve issue (2, Informative)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26293017)

Programming issue as result of development tools? I am a Symbian user since Nokia 7650 (first S60) and I keep getting amazed at the developers love for iPhone, how a very advanced application like Fring can ship in matter of months without any kind of help from Apple and how wisely OpenGL (ES) acceleration was used while it is ignored on my poor UIQ3 Sony Ericsson P1i for years until Opera 9.5 beta.

People say SSE could just reach the point of Altivec after new Xeons and yet as a G5 owner, I kept wondering why Altivec was not used many times even by Apple themselves in certain parts. Or SMP (I got Quad G5) is just to be seen in full potential after OS X Leopard. It has easy answer. Intel and AMD does offer great support to developers, the entire gnu compiler family and OS developers.

If it is a programming issue and both IBM and Sony involved, I would look to Development tools. Somehow I suspect the development tools and support for them offered way better on XBox 360. Compare the Symbian UIQ3 market to way more premature (in terms of coding/ui) Nokia S60 and finally compare Symbian S60 to iPhone. Development tools really makes huge difference and Sony is a hardware company, IBM doesn't really have clue about end user etc.

Re:It also helped MS (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292881)

"I really don't know what the hell Sony was thinking with putting a brand new kind of processor in a console."

I do, exactly the same they were thinking with putting Bluray in it, only the Bluray gamble paid off.

Sony were over-confident in their ability to carry over their first place console success from the PS1, to PS2 and then to the PS3, they didn't count on coming anything other than first place- you only have to look at their comments prior to and shortly after the PS3's release to see evidence of this.

With their confidence in hand, Sony figured they could use their high unit selling console to cut the cost of hardware they wanted to push in other market segments- Bluray and Cell. As mentioned above, this really paid off with Bluray, it to a large extent allowed Bluray to win the high-def format war. The problem is, that the PS3 simply hasn't sold fast enough to bring down the cost of Cell, and so the console is still very highly priced compared to it's competitors meaning it's struggling to sell, which has the catch 22 effect of failing to bring the price of Cell chips down as they hoped.

It was a sensible plan if they really could have kept their console in first place this round. Unfortunately over-arrogance in their ability to keep developers exclusive to their console, inability to predict the Wii (that's not necessarily a fault specific to Sony, how many really did predict the Wii before it's announcement?), and general over-confidence in how much of a stranglehold they could retain via a loyal customer base no matter what hurt their plan hard.

Well what does Sony really have to do with this? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289829)

I don't see how "Sonys" research money was used or really in question for any this.
the PowerPC both CPUs are based on is the PowerPC 970, the Processor Apple used in their G5 series- but from there the difference is that they disabled out of order execution- implemented SMT from the Power5, on sonys behalf they added 8 newly developed SIMD coprocessors known as SPEs.
For microsoft well they wrote a new version av VMX called VMX-128, something not to be found on the Cell which still uses the old VMX (Mostly Apples design)

If any thing worked against Sony it's been their high unit cost, their total failure to meet up with the advertising (full hd at 60 fps, etc)
Absent of games etc.

I bought a PS3 myself, but still today 3 years later the only reason I ever kept it was the ability to install linux so it could be put to some use in the absence of the games.

Re:Well what does Sony really have to do with this (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291089)

Well the Ps3 has some decent games, but you can count them on one hand if you despise shooters!

Hmm, really? (4, Interesting)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26289835)

Maybe I have to read the book to get a better picture, it is possible that the article blows things out of proportion. So, I thought that the whole "deal" about the Cell are the SPE's. The Xenon CPU that powers the Xbox 360 is just a custom-made triple core PowerPC. Now, I guess the "customization" of that core is similar to what is done for the PPE of the Cell, so research there could have overlapped, but I would not think that the PPE is the "essence" of the Cell - at least that is what Sony's and IBM's own claims have made me believe.
Additionally, I have to admit that I always thought the usage of the Cell processor a very bad (or, more precisely, very arrogant) decision. It is not just that it has many "cores"; the fact that they are asymmetric and that SPE's are not your usual general-purpose cores, was bound to make it very hard for developers to utilize them. If you wanted to develop for many platforms there is no way you would want to optimize for the SPE's when all other architectures (PC, Xbox...) use symmetric, general purpose cores. So, in my book, the Microsoft engineers knew much better what they were doing than the Sony ones. I guess they are not the same engineers responsible for gems like Me, Vista or Zune firmware.
What I would like to know are the differences that the modified core has compared to a "classic" PowerPC core? So, if MS had not benefited at all from Cell research and got a triple-core whose cores were closer to the original PowerPC, would it be a much different CPU? Anybody knows? If the answer is not, the whole discussion about MS benefits from Sony is moot...

Re:Hmm, really? (2, Informative)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290039)

The XBox360 cores don't have any superscalar features, things like branch prediction, instruction re-ordering or speculative execution. That means they use much less power than a regular core (and so generate less heat), but only run branchy game logic type code at around half the speed.

Re:Hmm, really? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26290775)

> instruction re-ordering

I don't know if any of the current generation of console CPUs has re-ordering... and for good reason. In an ideal world the compiler would schedule instructions well (or, rather, "well enough that dicking with it further in hardware wouldn't be a productive use of silicon") However in the real world 99.999% of users aren't running gentoo — instead, they have binaries which weren't likely compiled for the exact cpu that they're running. A hardware reorderer can make significant gains in instructions/clock on code like this.

Game consoles live outside this "real world" though — since every user is running the same CPU you can tell developers "hey, use this set of compiler options for the best instruction scheduling"

In other words, it's easier to make ILP a problem for the software folks.

> branch prediction

BP is kind of a mixed bag... a naive BP (backwards=taken, forwards=not taken) still gets it right most of the time. For really critical code reordering the code blocks to fit those rules isn't too hard. gcc makes if very easy with __builtin_expect() Not sure if MS's Visual suite has anything similar... does anyone know?

> speculative execution

That's one thing I'm surprised to see missing -- I'd expect it to be a big win for a design like this. I guess they didn't want to do a whole register renaming scheme? I'd be very interested to see what percentage of cycles are lost to mispredited-branch stalls in real game code. I bet you're right: it's probably high.

I trust IBMs CPU designers though... I'm sure they simulated it extensively both ways. Either that or it would have really blown the thermal budget for the core.

Re:Hmm, really? (2, Insightful)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290103)

I agree here as well, there is nothing from the Cell design which went into the Microsoft PowerPC core. IBMs processor business nowadays is mostly to customize power pc processors for various customers. The design which went in from Microsoft is basically just a trimmed down G5 core with three cores, while the Cells, is a trimmed down G5 core with a load of SIMD units!

EXCUSES~1 .. (2, Interesting)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290163)

"Maybe I have to read the book to get a better picture, it is possible that the article blows things out of proportion. So, I thought that the whole "deal" about the Cell are the SPE's. The Xenon CPU that powers the Xbox 360 is just a custom-made triple core PowerPC", Ecuador

Well unless you know different we'll just have to take the points raised in the article as accurate. And if the CELL was just a custom-made core then why the need to commit $400 million over five years?

"I agree here as well, there is nothing from the Cell design which went into the Microsoft PowerPC core", IamTheRealMike

"Xenon .. is based on [wikipedia.org] IBM's PowerPC instruction set architecture, consisting of three independent cores on a single die"

Re:EXCUSES~1 .. (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26291895)

"And if the CELL was just a custom-made core then why the need to commit $400 million over five years?"

You are confusing me, while your statement agrees with mine, you write as in disagreement. Which is it?
I exactly said that while the Xenon IS just a custom-made triple core, the WHOLE POINT (and the money I guess) of the Cell is what lies beyond its PowerPC-derived core.

Still confused with your further comment on IamTheRealMike, did you just want to add the link for reference purposes? The link is what the poster said, while he also analyzed what "in order execution" means.

Re:Hmm, really? (1)

stephen70 (1192101) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290685)

You obviously have no idea that Xenon chips PPC's have a completly new VMX128 register set and instructions which is a cut and paste of the SPU's of the Cell. The PPC core is not new at all it's the new VMX128 and the SPU's producing the big gains which allow the Cell to do 175+Mflops or the xenon to do 75Mflops. The VMX128 on the Xenon PPC's is a cut and paste subset of the SPU's design from the Cell!.

Re:Hmm, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26292131)

175MFLOPS???. WOW! What a performance! We just need SIX THOUSAND of those to get 1 TFLOPS (which is what some current graphics cards are giving us)!
Plus, where do you see that VMX128 was designed for PS3's SPUs? Reference or it didn't happen.

IBM is a vulture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289855)

IBM semiconductor is known to be a vulture company.

For example, in the foundry business : STMicroelectronics, Philips and Motorola had a deal for the development of key technologies. But When hedge funds took over NXP and Freescale, they decided to cut their research effort.
... As STMicro was looking for a replacement partner, IBM took the opportunity, and acquired the technology for a cheap deal.

Re:IBM is a vulture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26290411)

Buying unwanted companies from other companies, those fuckers!

*angrily shakes fist at IBM*

I know the *truth* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26289929)

The "Wall Street Journal ..."

I think you can stop right there and dismiss the rest of the article.

Hey I want to sell my new book why don't I utilize some people I know!! (I might get the backing of a rival company since it makes my, perhaps former? , employer look bad) [sinister laugh goes here]

VMX128 in Xenon is borrowed from the Cell SPU's ! (5, Interesting)

stephen70 (1192101) | more than 5 years ago | (#26290379)

Slashdot users read and learn because anyone who fails to understand the following is uninformed >

The SPU's on the Cell and the PPC Altivec unit on the Xenon(X360) are very closely associated never before has IBM done a 128register 128Bit Altivec unit. The 128bit X 128register Altivec VMX128 unit on the Xenon is the best of any CPU it is also an almost perfect subset or cut down version of the Cell's SPU !.

In non braching calculations and assuming no cache misses VMX128 performance is equal to the SPU's performance this is not a coincidence it's a newly shared design feature in both the instruction sets and silicon fab and clearly shows the CPU designers shared alot.

The older VMX is only 32 registers. Only the Xenon PPC cores and Cell's SPU's have this new VMX128 type arrangement with 128 SIMD registers - especially enhanced for multimedia and gaming.

Re:VMX128 in Xenon is borrowed from the Cell SPU's (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292073)

Could you please provide a link to a valid source? I tried to find something, but I always come up with statements like "Xbox 360 has VMX128 while PS3 only has VMX", and on the IBM website the only mentions of VMX128 are about the Xbox's Xenon CPU.

Re:VMX128 in Xenon is borrowed from the Cell SPU's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26295141)

The only description I've seen on VMX128 is this one [biallas.net] . Someone familiar with SPE assembly could do a comparison between the two. The Cell architecture specification is public.

Re:VMX128 in Xenon is borrowed from the Cell SPU's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26293273)

This is total bullshit, while it's true Xbox 360s VMX-128 is about identical in performance to a single SPU, that's also just as valid as the 32 bit VMX used on the Cell can reach exactly the same performance as the SPUs do.

We already know the SPUs are based on Altivec / VMX.

Re:VMX128 in Xenon is borrowed from the Cell SPU's (1)

stephen70 (1192101) | more than 5 years ago | (#26294625)

Note that the PPC on the cell only has VMX. But how odd that Xenon is the only PPC with "VMX128". Where did VMX128 come from all of a sudden and it just so happens to be great for multimedia and gaming ?. No supprise here VMX128 is a cut and paste subset of the SPU functionallity from on the Cell. Sure a full SPU operates decoupled from the PPC which allows 1 PPC to mediate 7 or 8 SPU's and it's local VMX while the Xenon's VMX128 replaces the traditional VMX. VMX128 is a cut and paste of the Cell SPU's.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AltiVec#VMX128 [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_software_development [wikipedia.org]
Only two processors in existance have SIMD with a 128register 128bitdesign with multimedia and gaming enhancements they are the X360's Xenon and the PS3's Cell. Need i say more !

Xenon/Cell SPU design conicidence. (1)

stephen70 (1192101) | more than 5 years ago | (#26294807)

http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/cpu/xbox360-2.ars/4 [arstechnica.com]
Read down and yes i am not the only person to notice - the author of this article notices the coincidences about the VMX and the Cell SPU's.
Anyone who programmes the Xenon's VMX128 will be plesantly supprised with the Cell SPU's similarity. It's like having 7 or 8 decoupled super VMX128 units instead of just one locally coupled one. !

Yes but.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26290733)

All very interesting how much more powerful the PS3 is, however, it is of diminished relevance if games creators write software for the xbox (because it was out earlier, larger user base etc) and then just port it to the PS3. They need to write specifically for it, and im sure the majority will be creating commercial suicide to do that. Most (all?) PS3 games creators dont even bother to support mouse/keyboard input...bad show!

I bought one, for HD graphics etc etc...and to be honest I should have just upgraded the Graphics card on my pc (which I have now done). Result is HD+ games usable with mouse and keyboard. At least the PS3 looks good under the telly, although the dust is starting to build up.

Again, An Iffy Article.... (2, Insightful)

EXTomar (78739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292177)

Japan has always been like this. Take a look at the PS3 and Wii. Both offer highly proprietary, custom built, in ways convoluted technology to the same problem. But for some reason Sony is treated as idiots while the author sort of forgets Wii takes the prize. For whatever reason Japanese engineers like doing this: When there is no technology that exists that exactly fits to solve a problem, their engieneers tend to build a new one even if there are other pre-existing solutions that almost achieve it. Just like other capital projects, it sometimes pays off and sometimes fails.

Another thing not considered is the fact the XBox 360 is most conservative console out of the three. The software and hardware technology in the Wii and PS3 are dramatically different then their predecessors where they have features that simply don't exist in the ancestors. On the other hand the XBox 360 is more like a beefier XBox. I think the real story is that Sony gambled on some fundamental technology shifts and it didn't pan out. Microsoft on the other hand "played safe" and iterated. There is nothing wrong with that but to claim its some technology shift or special insight, especially given their production and software problems is a bit much.

The die photos show it pretty clearly... (2, Informative)

CTho9305 (264265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26292595)

At first glance, the Xbox CPU [ctho.ath.cx] doesn't really resemble Cell [ctho.ath.cx] , but if you just compare Cell's PPE to one of Xenon's three cores the similarity is striking: Xenon [ctho.ath.cx] , Cell [ctho.ath.cx]

Well, these are big boys. (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#26293477)

I have no patience with inflicting lawyerese on mass market consumers, but these are big boys playing in a big money game. They can afford to hire the best lawyers, especially when they're slinging this kind of money around.

A good lawyer doesn't stand in the way of a business deal, he just makes what you assume about the business relationship explicit. If Sony was surprised by what IBM did, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>