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This chapter is from the book

1.3 The Cell Broadband Engine Software Development Kit (SDK)

This book uses a hands-on approach to teach Cell programming, so the development tools are very important. The most popular toolset is IBM’s Software Development Kit (SDK), which runs exclusively on Linux and provides many different tools and libraries for building Cell applications.

IBM provides the SDK free of charge, although some of the tools have more restrictive licensing than others. For the purposes of this book, the most important aspect of the SDK is the GCC-based toolchain for compiling and linking code. The two compilers, ppu-gcc and spu-gcc, compile code for the PPU and SPU, respectively. They provide multiple optimization levels and can combine scalar operations into more efficient vector operations. Chapter 3, “Building Applications for the Cell Processor,” explores these and the rest of the SDK’s build tools in depth.

The SDK also includes IBM’s Full-System Simulator, tailored for Cell applications. This impressive application runs on a conventional computer and provides cycle-accurate simulation of the Cell processor, keeping track of every thread and register in the PPU and SPUs. In addition to basic simulation and debugging, it provides many advanced features for responding to processing events. Chapter 4, “Debugging and Simulating Applications,” covers the simulator in thorough detail.

The SDK contains many code libraries to ease the transition from traditional programming to Cell development. It provides most standard C/C++ libraries for both the PPU and SPU, POSIX commands for the PPU, and a subset of the POSIX API on the SPU. Many of the libraries are related to math, but others can be used to profile an SPU’s operation, maintain a software cache, and synchronize communication between processing units.

All of these tools and libraries can be accessed through the Cell SDK integrated development environment (IDE). This is an Eclipse-based graphical user interface for managing, editing, building, and analyzing code projects. It provides a powerful text editor for code entry, point-and-click compiling, and a feature-rich interface to the Cell debugger. With this interface, you can watch variables as you step through code and view every register and memory location in the Cell. Chapter 5, “The Cell SDK Integrated Development Environment,” explains the Cell IDE in detail.

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