back to article Oak Ridge goes gaga for Nvidia GPUs

Oak Ridge National Laboratories may not be the first customer that Nvidia will have for its new "Fermi" graphics processor, which was announced yesterday, but it will very likely be one of the largest customers. Oak Ridge, one of the giant supercomputing centers managed and funded by the US Department of Energy to do all kinds …

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Nice to know the RSX isn't doing anything...

"Each Cell processor is running at 3.2GHz, and has eight vector processors (which are used to do the graphics in the Sony PlayStation 3, among other tasks the Cell chips were created to do)."

Um, no, they're not (usually). The Cell architecture is a sort of half-way house between a GPU and a CPU, with a hefty dose of Cray thrown in, but it's not a GPU of itself. There's an nVidia "RSX" chip in the PS3 that does the graphics.

The Cell's a bit closer to a GPU than one might necessarily want in a system which has its own GPU - where it shines against a conventional CPU is in the kind of application where one might consider using a GPU instead - which does make me wonder whether the idea for the PS3 was to use the Cell on its own, and the RSX was added when it became obvious it wasn't going to be fast enough. This might explain why the PS3 seems to be a bit harder to program for than the XBox 360 - although I'm not a game developer, so I don't wish to make detrimental claims which may be hidden by the tool chain.

That said, the Cell is a bit more MIMD than most GPUs, so there's a class of problems for which it beats both a GPU-like heavily SIMD architeacture and the relatively-scalar CPUs. Nice to know that you have to get your algorithm right *before* buying a multi-million dollar supercomputer, isn't it?

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