Interview with Ken Kutaragi -- "I want to draw a picture on a stark white campus" (page 2)

Interview with Ken Kutaragi

Apr 9, 2001

--So you are saying that exchanging data among stand-alone computers is not enough?

Kutaragi: What would happen if things would become even more broadband and there would be no ceilings to set limitations for the bandwidth of broadband? To be sure, there are restrictions under our current wires, but shifting to fiber optics would dramatically boost the speed of communication. We are now witnessing further development of an optical switch that has a capacity to input/output data under the form of a light signal. People would start to review the current computer architecture once such networking environment of optical communication is completed. I am not denying the high processing capability of computers that establish our current networks. Microprocessors of personal computers have reached the operating frequency of 1GHz and high-powered microprocessors are embedded onto PlayStation2. Why then can't such highly capable computers interact with each other once they are connected to the Internet? The reason is neither attributed to fiber optics nor to the "Last One Mile" task of connecting high-speed lines to households. The fact that servers and personal computers have the same LSI is the greatest bottleneck that is hobbling the realization of interaction among computers. Merely connecting one personal computer to another directly by fiber optics is easy. However, if we were to connect one personal computer to ten, what would happen to the server that positions in the center of the networking? In a case where the server is also required to function as a switchboard, we must lay out legions of clusters even when we have a centralized networking topology. Furthermore, the server would collapse should we try to shape it in the form of a complete network. The idea is the same as in the case of a server break down of the e-mail service at NTT DoCoMo. Not every single person will be able to enjoy bandwidth even if fiber optics were to spread over to all households around the world.

Topology to change

--Will CELL be a resolution to solving the bottleneck you mentioned?

Kutaragi: Exactly. CELL will transform the fundamentals of the network topology. The old mechanism functioned by reading memory data into resistors and rewriting the arithmetic into memories. In short, it was just a repetition of loading and storing. Because each cash memory differs in time of access and capacity, it worked out in such hierarchical structure as primary cache, second cache, etc. On the other hand, CELL might completely transform the concept of cache as it would drastically accelerate the speed of networking. What comes into reality is that each of the astronomical number of computers around the globe could unite to form a CELL and operate by one operating system. Each CELL would be the broadband network itself. Just to give you a picture, it is like 1,000 units of computers at one company functioning as one server. In such a networking world, one would only see the overall strength of power decline when one computer drops out and vice versa. It sounds like a human society.

I want to create a Mecca for researchers

-- And you are jointly going to embark on the development of CELL with two other companies by setting a research and development site in Austin, Texas, U.S.

Kutaragi:I intend to amass world's best think tanks to participate in the development of CELL in a bid to totally change the conventional computers down from the ground. By all means, researchers from SCE, IBM and Toshiba will be our core developers, but they will not be the only ones to participate. IBM is prominently taking the lead in semiconductor technology. They have established a technology that looks ahead say, a decade - as represented by the 0.1-micron SOI-based process, CU interconnect, and low-k. All they need to think about now is how to manufacture them. We will devote ourselves in research for a year from now. Not so many genuine computer architects exist in the world. The academic researchers in the real sense are scattered all over universities. But being at universities will not enable them to change the world. To this end, I want to invite those researchers to Austin - a Mecca, and I intend to create that. Currently we have over ten researchers at the developing facility in Austin. One of the researchers of IBM said, "This is the first and the last chance endowed in my life," the last time I visited Austin. He was aspiring for the ideal future of microprocessors. He might be able to change the world. All engineers would without doubt be excited to hear such comment coming from another researcher. It is not a matter of money.