IBM has a plan to stop the computing delays familiar to users of virtual worlds and online games, simply by adding its Cell gaming chips to its mainframe servers, the company says.
IBM developed the Cell Broadband Engine chip in conjunction with Sony and Toshiba for use in industries ranging from aerospace and defence to gaming, including Sony's PlayStation 3 video-game console. IBM intends to create a hybrid machine through the integration of the Cell processor with its System z9 Business Class (z9BC) mainframe server. The z9BC is the vendor's entry-point product for businesses that need less capacity than the System z9 Enterprise Class mainframe.
While the original design of this so-called "Gameframe" computer is dedicated to smoothing out performance problems in delivering rich graphics for the 3D internet, future versions could handle business applications like ERP, CRM, virtual stores and meeting rooms, collaboration environments, data repositories and mapping.
For the IBM hybrid computer's first application, the company will use software from Hoplon Infotainment, a Brazilian online game company, to carry out physics simulation and message passing on a number of Cell chips.
A typical z9BC uses a range of one to seven processors, so the system will also draw on other types of chips for different workloads. The mainframe will run Hoplon's bitverse middleware and IBM's DB2 database, as well as handling administrative tasks, billing and logistics, and connectivity to client devices like PCs, consoles, mobile phones, music players and TVs.
IBM chose its System z line for this project because the mainframe is designed to handle millions of simultaneous users spread out among several hundred servers, says Jim Stallings, general manager for System z, in a statement. Those users can interact with a minimal time lag compared to a distributed environment connecting many physical servers with networking cables.
As well, Sun Microsystems says it had solved a similar challenge, allowing cable and telecommunications operators to deliver personalised video streams to every customer.
The new Sun Streaming System can support up to 160,000 simultaneous, unique video streams at the rate of 2M bps (bits per second) each by dividing the load among 32 integrated 10 Gigabit Ethernet optical networking ports. Sun expects the product to fit fast-growing demand for video on demand and IPTV, according to a statement by Andy Bechtolsheim, Sun's chief architect and senior vice president.