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This special issue of the IBM Journal of Research and Development provides an overview of the Cell Broadband Engine™ (Cell/B.E.) processor, describes its first two implementations, and reports on initial Cell/B.E. processor-based systems from IBM and the first uses of these systems. The Cell/B.E. processor was initially intended for the computer gaming market, and as such, Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc., has shipped millions of PLAYSTATION®3 systems that use this processor. However, when in March 2007 a program to do protein folding was made available on the PLAYSTATION3 system, within a few days it created the world's largest distributed computer for this application. The Cell/B.E. processor-based system contributed more than twice as much application performance as a vastly larger number of PCs could have delivered. IBM and Mercury Computer Systems, Inc., have begun shipping the first generation of Cell/B.E processor-based blade servers. IBM and Los Alamos National Laboratory have announced their goal to jointly build a 1-Petaflops supercomputer based on a variant of the Cell/B.E. processor that provides significant improvement in double-precision floating-point performance. Mentor Graphics Corporation has introduced a Cell/B.E. processor-based solution for semiconductor mask processing for the 45-nm-node semiconductor generation, allowing its customers to replace three racks of conventional processors with half a rack of Cell/B.E. processor-based blades. A large number of universities are joining in research based on, or enabled by, the Cell/B.E. processor. The IBM developerWork® Web site on the Cell/B.E. processor draws a great amount of traffic. An enormous number of articles on the Cell/B.E. processor, systems, and applications have appeared on the Internet and in newspapers. This issue of the Journal is intended to serve as an introduction to the key technical features of the Cell/B.E. processor and early systems and applications b- ased on it.
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Date of Publication: Sept. 2007