May 3, 2007

IBM developing video games on mainframes

by Jan Harris

Computers & Internet

IBM is developing its System z mainframe computer into an online 3-D gaming platform.

The system will allow an organisation to create and run a virtual online environment like “Second Life,” on one unit, either as a gaming environment or as a showcase for their products or services.

The PlayStation 3 uses the Cell Broadband Engine (Cell/B.E.) – a hybrid processor developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba which uses a central core with eight synergistic processing elements that focus on specific kinds of computations.

The Cell/B.E. processor would be integrated with IBM’s System z mainframes which can run multiple operating systems via multiple processors, as well as assigning workloads to specialty processors for tasks such as processing Java or Linux-based workloads.

The system brings together the Cell/B.E. processor’s ability to handle graphics-intensive computations, and the IBM System z mainframe’s ability to handle massive numbers of users and accounts.

IBM is collaborating with Hoplon Infotainment, a Brazillian online game company which makes middleware for virtual worlds, called bitVerse.

bitVerse is currently under development using IBM WebSphere XD as the underlying runtime environment, along with IBM’s DB2 database.
IBM and Hoplon are porting Hoplon software to the Cell/B.E. to handle message passing and physics simulation. The companies have created a programming model and messaging architecture that separates the application running on the system.

By splitting the processing workloads, the mainframe will let companies process accounts while simultaneously processing the virtual 3-D environments.

The system would allow a company to deliver an online 3-D gaming environment without having to create or maintain a massive server farm.

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