US Air Force builds supercomputer using PlayStation 3s

A US Air Force research team has built a supercomputer using just over 2,000 PlayStation 3 game consoles, according to military news site Stars and Stripes. Dubbed the 500 TeraFLOPS Heterogeneous Cluster it is almost 100,000 times faster than existing high-end processors.

Using off-the-shelf components, including the metal shelves containing the cluster, and running Linux, the system will be used for purposes such as high definition video image processing and Neuromorphic computing, which mimics the human nervous system.

Dr. Richard Linderman, the senior scientist for Advanced Computing Architectures, said that the main reason for choosing the console for their supercomputer was it's low price-to-performance ratio. "Supercomputers used to be unique with unique processors," he said. "By taking advantage of a growing market, the gaming market, we are bringing the price performance to just $2 to $3 per gigaFLOPS."

He added that power consumption was also a factor, with the completed system using between 300 to 320 kilowatts at full power. Most supercomputers require 5 megawatts.

However, Mark Barnell, the high performance computing director at the laboratory, added that this does not make the PlayStation 3 "the Holy Grail of supercomputers." As the way the consoles connect with each other is relatively slow compared to regular supercomputers, the system is limited as to what kinds of programs it can run.

The research group, which was awarded a $2 million dollar grant for the cluster, has yet to take full advantage of the system's performance. Upon completion, the team expects it to be capable of 500 teraFLOPS.

Playstation 3 supercomputer

Image source: Stars and Stripes

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

In-depth overview of Windows Home Server "Vail" Build 7360

Next Story

Guitar Hero boss leaves Activision for Chegg

82 Comments

View more comments

Matt Hardwick said,
Not only is this old news, I would disagree that this isn't practical for supercomputing use as iamwhoiam says above... most supercomputer nodes communicate over Gbit LAN. So this solution more practical than some other "supercomputers",

i wonder what this ps3 setup has managed to do since it was built?

Lol, welcome to last year's news :)

http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/article/328134/u_military_building_ps3_supercomputer

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=bac60f8808fa1e221597573901a7cd6b&tab=core&_cview=1&cck=1&au=&ck=

Anyway, at least they are putting them to some good use...

necrosis said,
Problem is none of the new "slim" PS3's will take Linux.

Two comments above someone beat you to that too :p

Shame the picture doesn't show detail. That doesn't look like 2000 PS3's to me. I wonder if this is just a concept, rather than actual fact!

boho said,
Shame the picture doesn't show detail. That doesn't look like 2000 PS3's to me. I wonder if this is just a concept, rather than actual fact!

Quote from the listed source:
This cluster of 336 PlayStation 3 video game consoles is the beginning of a cluster of more than 2,000 consoles the Air Force is purchasing to create a supercomputer called 500 TeraFLOPS Heterogeneous Cluster, which will be housed at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Affiliated Resource Center in Rome, N.Y.

From what is an interesting news article, there is a surprising number of negative and poorly informed comments from this community. I thought people on this board were just ****ed off at Apple, but I guess the majority of people on this board are just ****ed off.

Welcome to the new slashdot.

Shadrack said,
From what is an interesting news article, there is a surprising number of negative and poorly informed comments from this community.

Surprising? Not in the least. Over the last few years (this last year in particular), Neowin has become flooded with morons who don't know the first thing about what they are talking about. Most of them seem to come here to do nothing but bash anything non-Microsoft. This used to be a pretty fairly balanced community, but that is LONG GONE now.

Edited by roadwarrior, Feb 3 2010, 5:17pm : added extra info

That's pretty interesting, and I like that they used consumer parts to save what must be a huge amount of cash. Pretty ingenious really, and surprising that they were able to float the idea past all the sign offs.

haha that's badass and skyy punk it should be yo dawg, i heard you like to game? so we put a PS3 in your PS3 so you can game while you game.

reminded this spoof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xlAyxtEMFk
now they have to respond with their "we have 2,000 PS3's"

I am active duty air force, and I have been informed of other uses the USAF is using PS3s for. Unfortunately, since I can't remember if those uses are classified or not, I can't comment on exactly what those uses are.

The PS3 is a gaming console, therefore is optimized towards the computations the Air Force wants to use it for: floating point calculations. Not all processors are the same, and not all systems are the same. That is why they are using a gaming console.

That being said, I am sure there is a more efficient performance vs. cost solution they could have designed. However, that process would have cost them more money. Having someone custom make a system specifically to perform a task costs a lot of money. They probably saw that the PS3 was a very good fit for what they needed, and chose it to save manpower. I am sure there are other considerations also. That is my theory.

Despite what many people may think, the USAF is under serious budget constraints. They would not have made this decision if it did not make sense financially.

petroid said,
The true reason for the increase in PS3 sales? :P

Already said if you read previous comments. Plus, retard comment to say.

I don't know if it's just me but that seems real expensive $300 per a system ? 2$ to 3$ per gigaflop, how many gigaflops can you achieve per a ps3 or how many ps3s for 1 gigaflop?

Avangelon said,
I don't know if it's just me but that seems real expensive $300 per a system ? 2$ to 3$ per gigaflop, how many gigaflops can you achieve per a ps3 or how many ps3s for 1 gigaflop?

I see you agree with those talking Barbie dolls: "math is hard".

Commenting is disabled on this article.