IBM, Mercury Computer in Cell chip deal

Von Linda Rosencrance

Mercury Computer Systems Inc. has signed a multiyear deal to use IBM"s Cell chip to develop embedded computer systems that will process graphically intense images for the medical, defense and life sciences industries, the companies announced today.

Mercury and engineers from IBM"s Engineering and Technology Services unit will collaborate to develop products with improved performance for graphic-intensive workloads and computationally intensive applications.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Chelmsford, Mass.-based Mercury is the first company outside of the gaming community to use the chip, which is the power behind Sony Corp."s PlayStation 3.

Developed by IBM, Toshiba Corp. and Sony, the Cell processor has peak performance of 200 billion floating-point operations per second, the companies said.

"Clearly for Mercury the Cell capabilities -- in terms of processing -- could [attract] some major interest [from] health care, especially linked to the good price performance," said Didier Thibaud, vice president and general manager of Mercury Computer Systems.

By incorporating Cell into its product line, Mercury said it expects to improve the processing performance of its systems by as much as a factor of 10, enabling those products to deliver more precise images for a number of groups of users, including doctors, air traffic controllers and pilots.

"What we"ve found in studies that we"ve done is that the Cell is a good solution for these more [intensive] applications," said Peter Hofstee, Cell processor architect for IBM Systems and Technology Group. "Cell is a more programmable solution, and we"re also excited because of this broader use of the Cell architecture."