Accelerating Multiple Sequence Alignment with the Cell BE Processor

Hans Vandierendonck, Sean Rul, Koen De Bosschere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The Cell Broadband Engine (BE) Architecture is a new heterogeneous multi-core architecture targeted at compute-intensive workloads. The architecture of the Cell BE has several features that are unique in high-performance general-purpose processors, most notably the extensive support for vectorization, scratch pad memories and explicit programming of direct memory accesses (DMAs) and mailbox communication. While these features strongly increase programming complexity, it is generally claimed that significant speedups can be obtained by using Cell BE processors. This paper presents our experiences with using the Cell BE architecture to accelerate Clustal W, a bio-informatics program for multiple sequence alignment. We report on how we apply the unique features of the Cell BE to Clustal W and how important each is in obtaining high performance. By making extensive use of vectorization and by parallelizing the application across all cores, we demonstrate a speedup of 24.4 times when using 16 synergistic processor units on a QS21 Cell Blade compared to single-thread execution on the power processing unit. As the Cell BE exploits a large number of slim cores, our highly optimized implementation is just 3.8 times faster than a 3-thread version running on an Intel Core2 Duo, as the latter processor exploits a small number of fat cores.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)814-826
Number of pages13
JournalThe Computer Journal
Issue number6
Early online date11 Sept 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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