PowerPC Cell Chip Gets Fedora Linux Support
Published: September 12, 2006
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Back in March, when Linus Torvalds put his seal of approval on the Linux 2.6.16 kernel, one of the key new features that was added to the kernel was support for the PowerPC "Cell" processor co-designed by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba. Now, that support for the Cell chip has been brought into the Fedora Core 5 development Linux from Red Hat.
In fact, as I learned last week from talking to IBM, the Fedora Core 5 development release of Red Hat's Linux is moving toward a de facto standard on the Cell chip as it makes its first foray into actual use beyond game consoles. IBM is expected, within the next week or two, to launch a Cell-base blade server, the one that is used in the 1.6 petaflops supercomputer that IBM is building for Los Alamos National Lab, which we report on elsewhere in this issue, called Roadrunner.
The Cell chip is interesting for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that it marries a 64-bit PowerPC core with eight vector math units that have a tremendous amount of processing power, which can be used to handle media processing or number crunching. Why someone isn't trying to build a Cell-based scientific workstation out of this chip is a wonder. IBM and Sony have been mumbling about such a workstation for two years, but it hasn't happened yet. But given the impressive performance of the chip and the open source nature of the academic and government codes that tend to run on Linux-based supers, such a workstation would be extremely useful. So would clusters of servers, as IBM's deal with Los Alamos shows.
And why Novell has not yet adopted the 2.6.16 kernel extensions into the openSUSE development release of its SUSE Linux is a bit of a mystery. For several years, Novell has beat Red Hat to supporting the hardware architectures and supercomputing extensions to Linux that have given it an edge over Red Hat in the vital supercomputing segment of the Linux server market. Almost all new supercomputers are based on Linux these days, and have been for years. And it stands to reason that more research institutions are going to try to build machines like Roadrunner.
Torvalds Releases Linux 2.6.16 Kernel