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Cell Broadband Engine becoming a medical powerhouse
The PS3 wonderchip does more than play games -- it saves lives

The Cell Broadband Engine is a truly versatile piece of silicon. It’s inside every PlayStation 3 powering games, decoding Blu-ray movies and curing diseases with Folding@home. It’s also inside a few IBM BladeCenter servers, which will soon be utilized for medical imaging. Collaborators from Mayo Clinic and IBM say that they are now using the Cell Broadband Engine to dramatically speed up the processing of 3D medical images.

The advance significantly aids image registration -- the computer-enhanced alignment of two medical images in three-dimensional space. One way medical images are being improved is by using visual images from more than one source -- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans for example. With the images properly aligned over one another, a radiologist can more easily detect structural changes such as the growth or shrinkage of tumors.

"This alignment of images both improves the accuracy of interpretation and improves radiologist efficiency, particularly for diseases like cancer," says Mayo radiology researcher Bradley Erickson, M.D., Ph.D.

Through porting and optimization of Mayo Clinic's Image Registration Application on the IBM 'Cell Blade,' the application produces image results fifty times faster than the application running on a traditional processor configuration. Mayo Clinic and IBM used 98 sets of images and ran the optimized registration application on the IBM BladeCenter QS20 with the Cell Broadband Engine, in comparison with running the original application on a typical processor configuration. The application running on a typical processor configuration completed the registration of all 98 sets of images in approximately 7 hours. The team adapted the  application optimized for Cell and completed the registration for all 98 sets of images in just 516 seconds, with no registration taking more than 20 seconds.

"This is all about taking technology innovation, collaborating with our customers, and applying it to help them directly benefit their patients," said Shahrokh Daijavad, Next Generation Computing, Systems & Technology, IBM. "This improvement with the application running on Cell, will achieve two things -- allow for Mayo's doctors and radiologists to achieve in seconds what used to take hours, which in turn will significantly decrease the wait time and anxiety for a patient waiting on news from the doctor."

Sony also revealed plans to lease out the computing power of the Cell Broadband Engine inside PlayStation 3 consoles as part of a supercomputer grid.



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CBE blade... quite different than a PS3
By therealnickdanger on 4/13/2007 8:46:45 AM , Rating: 1
My understanding is that Cell blades are built using a minimum of two fully operational (8 out of 8 SPEs) Cell processors in unison. They share next to nothing else, architecturally, with the PS3.




By FITCamaro on 4/13/2007 8:54:58 AM , Rating: 2
SSSSHHHHHHHH.......

*wink* Cell blade servers are nothing more than one or more PS3s in a bigger case *end wink*


RE: CBE blade... quite different than a PS3
By defter on 4/13/2007 8:59:03 AM , Rating: 3
They are using Cell CPUs like PS3. Your claim is same as saying: "dual Xeon workstation doesn't have anything to do with Core2 based desktop computer"


By therealnickdanger on 4/13/2007 9:48:07 AM , Rating: 2
Depends on which Xeon you're referring to. These blades don't share the same bandwidth crippling "features" of the PS3 and I'm certain that they contain much higher quality components and probably fetch an enormous price tag. I'm just trying to point out that while the word "Cell" is attached to both the PS3 and this blade, they are worlds apart in performance and design.


RE: CBE blade... quite different than a PS3
By masher2 (blog) on 4/13/2007 10:43:10 AM , Rating: 5
Honestly, I know why some people are so vehemently against anything Sony, but face it, Cell is extraordinarily powerful at executing certain types of tasks. How well it executes in a gaming console is an open question, but for image processing, its currently some of the best silicon available on Earth.


By Blackraven on 4/14/2007 11:59:04 PM , Rating: 2
What masher2 said:
quote:
Honestly, I know why some people are so vehemently against anything Sony, but face it, Cell is extraordinarily powerful at executing certain types of tasks. How well it executes in a gaming console is an open question, but for image processing, its currently some of the best silicon available on Earth.


QFT 100%

This comment deserves a rating of 6 (the one with the green highlight on the bar). Unfortunately, I don't know how it works.

Question though:
How does a comment get a rating of 6 or above???


RE: CBE blade... quite different than a PS3
By TSS on 4/13/2007 10:43:15 AM , Rating: 2
stop nitpicking and just blalantly bash sony/the PS3 so atleast the majority will know what the hell your talking about. both machines are run by the same CPU and in this blade server, its even more important then the PS3 seeing as there most likely isn't a graphics chip to back it up (or a very powerfull one atleast).


By therealnickdanger on 4/13/2007 11:32:20 AM , Rating: 2
There's a difference between bashing and clarification. If more people understood this, perhaps more people would be able to think and speak logically and avoid responding emotionally to so many things.

If you want to believe that this CBE blade legitimizes Sony's claims of the PS3's power, that's your prerogative, but you should be willing to admit that.


By Transcendental Ego on 4/13/2007 1:52:11 PM , Rating: 2
The question still remains, did it really need clarification?


By therealnickdanger on 4/13/2007 2:34:21 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the article did not provide any technical information about the innards of the "IBM BladeCenter QS20 with the Cell Broadband Engine", it merely linked the QS20 to the PS3 based upon similar technology. So I would suggest that it did indeed need more clarification.

Here are the full specs of the base configuration:
http://www-03.ibm.com/technology/splash/qs20/pdf/q...

- Two CBE processors @ 3.2GHz (each composed on one PowerPC 2.02 general purpose dual-threaded PPE with 512KB cache and eight SPEs with 256KB cache each)
- 512MB RAM per CBE processor
- 40GB IDE HDD
- Dual gigabit ethernet
- Fedora Linux


By Carl B on 4/13/2007 2:56:59 PM , Rating: 2
Again, how is that even different?

Like I said - 1 Cell vs 2, and 256MB XDR vs 1GB.

Fedora Linux is running on my PS3 right now, and I've got a 120GB SATA hard drive. Sure only one gigabit ehternet port... but at this poitn aren't you stretching waaaaay too much in order to find points of differentiation?


By deeznuts on 4/13/2007 3:42:01 PM , Rating: 1
But you assumed that nothing was similar except the proc?


RE: CBE blade... quite different than a PS3
By FITCamaro on 4/13/2007 5:13:46 PM , Rating: 1
He is correct. They share the processor. Nothing more.

Now thats not saying the Cell is good for tasks such as this though. But he is right that it should be clear that IBM's blade server has nothing to do with the PS3 other than that they both use the Cell processor. Look at the original Xbox. It used a 700MHz P3/Celeron. Does that mean a 700MHz P3/Celeron system would be capable of playing the games it could? No.


RE: CBE blade... quite different than a PS3
By Carl B on 4/13/2007 6:01:49 PM , Rating: 2
FITCamaro, you simply don't know what you're talking about.

The fact that you're taking this in the direction of gaming shows how off you are. Phrased differently, I have no doubt the PS3 would kick-ass at medical imaging in a clustered environment. This article is about medical imaging, not gaming.

And in terms of the differences between the QS20 and PS3, I don't believe any have been pointed out as yet. Frankly the only fundamental difference (beyond the obvious doubling of processing power and quadrupling of RAM), is that the QS20 is in a blade form-factor that can be readily inorporated into IBMs bladecenter chasis for a heterogenous processing environment.


By FITCamaro on 4/14/2007 9:28:43 AM , Rating: 1
I don't doubt that it would. Would it be as good as a blade server though? I doubt it.

I just don't want to see any Sony adds saying "Hey. The Cell is used in medical imaging. That must mean the PS3 is better than the 360 and Wii as a gaming console. So go buy one. Now. Because Sony said so."


By therealnickdanger on 4/14/2007 12:31:36 PM , Rating: 2
Technically, it's not even the same processor, since this version has 8 (8x2=16) functioning SPEs as opposed to the 7 available to the PS3 (in order to improve yields). Looking at the number theoretical crunching strength of the QS20 as opposed to the PS3 puts this even more in perspective, they aren't even in the same league, despite both comtaining Cell.


By masher2 (blog) on 4/14/2007 12:57:13 PM , Rating: 1
> "Technically, it's not even the same processor, since this version has 8 (8x2=16) functioning SPEs "

By this logic, a server with two 4MB cache Xeons is using "totally different" cpus than one with a single 2MB Xeon

They're all still Cells, made with the same design, on the same assembly lines.


By SquidianLoveGod on 4/14/2007 5:22:30 AM , Rating: 2
It was a 733Mhz Pentium 3/Celeron Hybrid not a 700Mhz Processor. - And yes I could play some games that the xbox can.
Like Halo, FarCry (I managed to get FarCry running on a Pentium 3 667, 512Mb of ram, Geforce 4 Ti 4400)
It all comes down to the optimizations that the maker put in place.


By Carl B on 4/13/2007 11:46:13 AM , Rating: 4
The difference between the QS20 and the PS3 come down to essentially this: 2 Cells vs one (yes with 8 SPEs rather than 7), and 1GB of XDR vs 256MB. That's basically it. The interconnect technologies are the same, so I'm not sure where your bandwidth concerns are coming from.

Here's an article illustrating that indeed, even PS3's are being clustered together to serve the corporate space:

http://linuxps3.net/articles/cell-broadband-engine...


By Goty on 4/13/2007 1:57:50 PM , Rating: 3
Who cares if the blades have almost nothing in common with the PS3 outside of the processor? That's not the emphasis of the article.


CT and MRI Registration, Interesting....
By cbuchach on 4/13/2007 9:28:47 AM , Rating: 2
As a radiology resident this was a very interesting little snippet of news. We currently do multiplanar recontruction of primarily CT images which within in a given data set or with comparison studies of the same modality that can be relatively easily manipulated and co-registered.

But using technology to co-register CT and MRI data sets (which are very different for a variety or reasons) would be helpful specifically as the acticle states for comparison purposes as comparing different modalities does have inherent limitations.




RE: CT and MRI Registration, Interesting....
By fic2 on 4/13/2007 11:48:41 AM , Rating: 2
A couple of years ago I did software for a company that did digital xray imaging (specifically digital mammography). We could do and display realtime (or near realtime) digital xrays, but one of the things that took compute power was doing enhancement of the image. I convinced them to move from a sun blade to a dual opteron which cut the time to a third of previous. I knew stuff like the cell could really help and would probably be able to do it in close to realtime which would have been great. Unfortunately, the company went bellyup.

I think that using the cell as a co-processor is going to be a big leap for some types of imaging work.


By saratoga on 4/14/2007 2:35:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
A couple of years ago I did software for a company that did digital xray imaging (specifically digital mammography). We could do and display realtime (or near realtime) digital xrays, but one of the things that took compute power was doing enhancement of the image. I convinced them to move from a sun blade to a dual opteron which cut the time to a third of previous. I knew stuff like the cell could really help and would probably be able to do it in close to realtime which would have been great. Unfortunately, the company went bellyup.


These days FPGA systems are getting popular. For that sort of thing, some of the new 3D imaging systems being demoed have basically a U1 sized board that streams data from the ADC channels and implements all of the forming/DSP/etc stuff in hardware. Literally, an adder, a register, multiply by a coefficient etc to implement an FIR filter or whatever. Really cool idea, but inflexible and expensive.

I think chips like Cell could revolutionize how some of these products were designed. FPGAs and dual Xeons are used because there were no DSP cores that could handle the bandwidth and FLOPS needed to do high FPS and high resolution in real time. But with something like Cell you can, all in one chip, and for a tiny fraction of the price. Not to mention the size savings. Used to be these systems were the size of a small rack. The new FPGA systems are almost PC sized. The next gen will probably be the size an Xbox 360 :)

Which is awesome, I hate moving test systems between buildings.

Also the cool thing about this is the possibilities opened up by having all those FMACs/clock. Right now manufacturers quietly implement all sorts of "optimized" algorithms to avoid having to do large (but more accurate and more useful) cross correlations. But on a chip like Cell, you could easily do a cross correlation across a huge dataset, in real time, and using only a few SPEs. Off the top of my head I can think of a few really cool motion tracking applications, and I'm sure theres tons more that the engineers have sitting in the lab.


By Scorpion on 4/13/2007 11:54:03 AM , Rating: 4
This is very interesting to me. I work in an Image Processing research lab and we are currently improving methods for visualizing 3D data for doctors. By moving a flat board around in 3D space we are able to project a slice through 3D data according to the location of the board plane. Very useful for visualizing 3D data. Registration over a single dataset is a very important issue, but for the most part is relatively easy, it just requires a bit of time depending on the size of the dataset. However, co-registration between datasets could be very very beneficial, especially when coupled with the visualization device we are working on. This is the type of stuff I love to work on! :)


Why not use CUDA as well?
By 457R4LDR34DKN07 on 4/13/2007 3:44:19 PM , Rating: 2
My question is why don't they use the GPU for calculations along with the CELL processor using the CUDA software that was released by nvidia?




RE: Why not use CUDA as well?
By boong on 4/13/2007 8:30:18 PM , Rating: 2
One reason would be that CUDA is a proprietary technology.
If you're doing academic research it's wise to stick to FLOSS and resources that are fully documented and exposed (like e.g. the cell processor).


RE: Why not use CUDA as well?
By Goty on 4/14/2007 12:32:35 AM , Rating: 2
Also, we're talking about blades here. Not much room for a high-end GPU in there =P


RE: Why not use CUDA as well?
By FITCamaro on 4/14/2007 9:33:53 AM , Rating: 1
The Folding@Home team has already stated that Nvidia's 7xxx series doesn't have the ability to be used in that fashion. Or they'd already have a client for it like they do for the X19xx series.


RE: Why not use CUDA as well?
By saratoga on 4/14/2007 2:38:03 PM , Rating: 2
CUDA is stupidly complicated compared to this. Anyone with DSP experience can implement a FIR filter or FFT/MDCT/whatever on Cell. Implementing everyday programs is another nightmare, but DSP stuff isn't. Cell is basically the DSP every embedded programmer has dreamed of.


GPGPU?
By DingieM on 4/13/2007 10:32:02 AM , Rating: 2
Doesn't the ATI R5xx and nVidia 8800 have better performance for these kind of calculations????

Cell broadband isn't versatile, its only suited for continuous streaming calculations, i.e. not specifically games.




RE: GPGPU?
By ADDAvenger on 4/13/2007 11:21:33 AM , Rating: 4
The order of versatility is something like CPU>Cell>GPU. GPUs are extremely good at highly parallel operations, but they can only do certain things. Cell is also built for parallelization, but it is a bit more general purpose, so it doesn't do some things as well as GPUs, but it can do other things better than a normal CPU that GPUs can't do at all. And of course a normal CPU is the most versatile of them all, though it doesn't specifically shine in any one area.


RE: GPGPU?
By saratoga on 4/14/2007 2:41:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Doesn't the ATI R5xx and nVidia 8800 have better performance for these kind of calculations????


For some problems, maybe. You'd not be able to do everything on a GPU though, so you'd still want a Cell style processor or DSP for other things. In which case, you're probably better using Cell for everything.

quote:
Cell broadband isn't versatile, its only suited for continuous streaming calculations,


Medical image processing is the quintessential streaming data problem. You literally do the same thing over and over and over again billions or trillions of time with perfect predictability. This is the problem Cell is designed to solve.


By teainthesahara on 4/15/2007 6:33:12 AM , Rating: 2
Nice to see someone actually using the real power of the IBM Cell BE and for Medical Imaging which is a worthy cause!People should not compare this to the bandwidth and graphically crippled PS3.The Blade Server actually has all 8 of the SPEs working too unlike PS3's 7.




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