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On April 8, 2008, Fixstars Corporation released a PCI Express accelerator board based on the Power XCell 8i processor.The Cell Broadband Engine, or Cell as it is more commonly known, is a microprocessor intended as a hybrid of conventional desktop processors (such as the Athlon 64, and Core 2 families) and more specialized high-performance processors, such as the NVIDIA and ATI graphics-processors (GPUs).
Toshiba had announced plans to incorporate Cell in high definition television sets, but seems to have abandoned the idea.The PPE core is dual threaded and manifests in software as two independent threads of execution while each active SPE manifests as a single thread.In the Play Station 3 configuration as described by Sony, the Cell processor provides nine independent threads of execution.In a simple analysis, the Cell processor can be split into four components: external input and output structures, the main processor called the Power Processing Element (PPE) (a two-way simultaneous multithreaded Power ISA v.2.03 compliant core), eight fully functional co-processors called the Synergistic Processing Elements, or SPEs, and a specialized high-bandwidth circular data bus connecting the PPE, input/output elements and the SPEs, called the Element Interconnect Bus or EIB.To achieve the high performance needed for mathematically intensive tasks, such as decoding/encoding MPEG streams, generating or transforming three-dimensional data, or undertaking Fourier analysis of data, the Cell processor marries the SPEs and the PPE via EIB to give access, via fully cache coherent DMA (direct memory access), to both main memory and to other external data storage.For these reasons, Cell is widely regarded as a challenging environment for software development.
The architecture will not be widely used unless it is adopted by the software development community.
In the Play Station 3, one SPE is locked-out during the test process, a practice which helps to improve manufacturing yields, and another one is reserved for the OS, leaving 6 free SPEs to be used by games' code.
The relationship between cores and threads is a common source of confusion.
Cell is shorthand for Cell Broadband Engine Architecture, commonly abbreviated CBEA in full or Cell BE in part.
The first major commercial application of Cell was in Sony's Play Station 3 game console.
The longer name indicates its intended use, namely as a component in current and future online distribution systems; as such it may be utilized in high-definition displays and recording equipment, as well as HDTV systems.