IBM releases Cell software developer's kit

IBM and Sony have assembled compilers, patches and instructions on how to create applications for the Cell processor.

IBM and Sony have released a software developer's kit intended to help developers write games and other software for future products based on the multicore Cell processor, the companies announced Wednesday.

Cell is a nine-core processor designed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba that will power Sony's PlayStation 3 next year, and the companies have a vested interest in making sure there are enough game titles available at launch to lure users. However, gaming software, and client software in general, has traditionally been written for high-speed single-core processors.

Microsoft is preparing to release its own gaming console based on a multicore processor later this year. Last month, a top software architect at Microsoft warned that the software development community needs help from hardware designers in creating software for multicore chips, which represents a departure from older development strategies.

Software developers kits are one way hardware companies try to encourage developers to write code for their systems. IBM and Sony's kit contains information on how to simulate the performance of Cell so developers can test their code, as well as compilers and tools designed for Cell.

The kit also contains patches that will allow developers to run Linux on Cell-based devices, such as the IBM-developed version of Linux that will run on a blade server built by Mercury Computer Systems Inc. Cell has eight separate processing engines called synergistic processing elements (SPEs) that are responsible for most of the number-crunching done by Cell, and those SPEs require special programming interfaces to allow Linux to take advantage of that performance, the companies said.

The kit and additional information about programming for Cell can be found on IBM's Developer Web site. (http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/power/cell/)

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