US Air Force connects 1,760 PlayStation 3's to build supercomputer

Dec 02, 2010 by Lisa Zyga weblog
The Condor Cluster consists of 1,760 Sony PlayStation 3's, and is the US Department of Defense's fastest interactive computer. Image credit: US Department of Defense.

(PhysOrg.com) -- About the 33rd largest supercomputer in the world right now is the US Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) newest system, which has a core made of 1,760 Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) consoles. In addition to its large capacity, the so-called "Condor Cluster" is capable of performing 500 trillion floating point operations per second (TFLOPS), making it the fastest interactive computer in the entire US Defense Department.

The supercomputer, which is located in Rome, New York, was formally presented yesterday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It will be used by Air Force centers across the country for tasks such as radar enhancement, , satellite imagery processing, and artificial intelligence research.

Its speed allows it to analyze ultra-high-resolution images very quickly - at a rate of billions of pixels per minute - to greatly reduce the amount of time required. Due in part to the video game consules' cutting-edge , the supercomputer also has improved algorithms that can better identify blurred flying objects in space than previous computers could.

The Condor Cluster project began four years ago, when PlayStation consoles cost about $400 each. At the same time, comparable technology would have cost about $10,000 per unit. Overall, the PS3s for the supercomputer’s core cost about $2 million. According to AFRL Director of High Power Computing Mark Barnell, that cost is about 5-10% of the cost of an equivalent system built with off-the-shelf computer parts.

Another advantage of the PS3-based supercomputer is its energy efficiency: it consumes just 10% of the power of comparable supercomputers.

In addition to the PS3s, the also includes 168 separate graphical processing units and 84 coordinating servers to direct traffic within the system. The PS3s are the older, larger variety, since the newer slim models don’t allow for the installation of Linux.

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More information: via: Gamasutra and The Plain Dealer

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User comments : 34

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Yellowdart
4 / 5 (6) Dec 02, 2010
I wonder how much this tells you that Sony lost in making those consoles and only selling them for 400 bucks...

scenage
1.3 / 5 (3) Dec 02, 2010
I'm guessing they paid so little for the parts because the GPU's and other components of the PS3 are not top of the range but more mid range of class 1 GPU's. The costs of GPU's goes exponential the higher the class and the higher the performance within the class.
zslewis91
1 / 5 (2) Dec 02, 2010
more mid range of class 1 GPU'sq]

@scenage? could you please explain your theory with a little more detail...so i can pproperly challenge your claims.
panorama
not rated yet Dec 02, 2010
I wonder how much this tells you that Sony lost in making those consoles and only selling them for 400 bucks...


Also, I don't think the AFRL is going to buying any of Sony's software for the PS3 either.
billfarty
5 / 5 (5) Dec 02, 2010
I thought they purchased the ps3 to take advantage of the CELL processor?

The CELL is more capable than traditional processors because it has many cores capable of GPU like instructions, working on sets of data at a time.
dirk_bruere
2 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2010
1700 top of the range graphics cards would perform in the low PFLOPS
SincerelyTwo
5 / 5 (7) Dec 02, 2010
Readers; It's for the CELL processors, not the GPU, most people here don't understand what's going on here so just ignore 90% of the comments.
zslewis91
1.3 / 5 (7) Dec 02, 2010
@SincerelyTwo, thank god someone here has a brain-----------------------------4
@dirk bruere, you are a retard and clearly dont understand whats goin on here.----------------------------------------------
@panorama, you to are also a retard, Ps3 OS do not support clusters. and even if they did, why?
jmcanoy1860
4.3 / 5 (3) Dec 02, 2010
Does anyone realize how old this is? Next do we get to hear the news about SONY disallowing the multiple OS support and the DoD throwing a fit? I love getting year old news!!!
RobertKarlStonjek
2.2 / 5 (5) Dec 02, 2010
OK, 1,760 playstations...what I want to know is how many pimply faced 14 year old nerds they had to hire to build the thing...
Khody_Hudnall
4.6 / 5 (5) Dec 02, 2010
OK, 1,760 playstations...what I want to know is how many pimply faced 14 year old nerds they had to hire to build the thing...


People like you RobertKarlStonjek, are why we can never move past stereotypes and social norms. Because of people like you we have wars over silly things everyday.

Not everyone who works on computers are nerds, especially in this day and age.
FrankHerbert
2 / 5 (4) Dec 02, 2010
OK, 1,760 playstations...what I want to know is how many pimply faced 14 year old nerds they had to hire to build the thing...


People like you RobertKarlStonjek, are why we can never move past stereotypes and social norms. Because of people like you we have wars over silly things everyday.

Not everyone who works on computers are nerds, especially in this day and age.


lol with people like zslewis91 its kind of hard to ignore the stereotype
TehDog
not rated yet Dec 02, 2010
OK, 1,760 playstations...what I want to know is how many pimply faced 14 year old nerds they had to hire to build the thing...


Joke is not good joke.
As fot PFY's, I refer you to this...
http://www.thereg...ds/bofh/
Pray you never meet him :)
TehDog
1 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2010
/me looks at spelling above, facepalms :/
MatthiasF
4.7 / 5 (3) Dec 02, 2010
Boy, imagine if they accidentally got the forced firmware update that stopped Linux installs.
Bob_Kob
not rated yet Dec 03, 2010
I find it hard to believe that a system made for gaming outperforms cost-per-calculation than a specifically designed supercomputer.
alysdexia
1 / 5 (3) Dec 03, 2010
Glue is fast; rockets are swift; birds are quick; pizza is speedy; motes are fleet.
larger := broader
http://google.com...te"
AkiBola
1 / 5 (7) Dec 03, 2010
What a waste of taxpayer money :(
uncleGerald
3.8 / 5 (4) Dec 03, 2010
What a waste of taxpayer money :(


What a waste of oxygen.

If this costs, and I quote: "...5-10% of the cost of an equivalent system built with off-the-shelf computer parts" then it has *cost less* than it would have, had they *not* used PS3's....

Fail high-school maths did we? (And obviously English, come to think of it...)
iknow
5 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2010
If this costs, and I quote: "...5-10% of the cost of an equivalent system built with off-the-shelf computer parts" then it has *cost less* than it would have, had they *not* used PS3's....


With the added bonus of playing games at break times :)
Pyle
5 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2010
It is a processor. What is wrong with you people? The Cell was built to interface your entire household and share processing power between your microwave, TV, Blue Ray player, PlayStation, etc. I wonder where they are at with it? Imagine your computer getting faster with every new appliance you purchase. Pretty cool.

The Air Force using the technology for a supercomputer is awesome for both us US taxpayers and for Sony. Win win.
krundoloss
not rated yet Dec 03, 2010
This article is one of many. I cant stand when people have not researched the Playstation 3 at all and bawk at this kind of thing. HELLO! IBM, SONY TOSHIBA and other folks collaborated for YEARS to create the 8-CORE CELL CPU in the Playstation 3. The CELL CPU is still one of the most advanced CPUs ever created. Sony actually LOST MONEY on the first edition PS3 so they could win the Bluray - HDDVD format war. THAT IS WHY PS3's can be used as a Supercomputer. Just a little background for ya.
krundoloss
5 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2010
@Bob Kob - The reason PS3's perform so well for a low cost is that they are mass produced, unlike standard supercomputer components. Also, as Pyle stated, the CELL cpu was designed to work with other Cell Cpus to create a cluster.
stealthc
2 / 5 (5) Dec 03, 2010
Isn't it great, the system can build monsterous super-computers with tomorrow's e-junk! Soon it will cost them nothing to roll out unlimited computing power managing the global police state. Just imagine the system getting their hands on even 1% of every ps3 manufactured. Well if it doesn't happen with quantum computers then it'll happen with your e-waste and there'll be a system that'll love to devote every last cpu cycle towards micromanaging you and your life with it. What an awesome invention!
Magus
5 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2010
I wonder if they took out the Blu-ray players. I mean having 1760 of those isn't really do them anything. Just added weight and possibly power consumption.
Amber_Mckee
5 / 5 (1) Dec 04, 2010
I just want to know what they did with the extra parts. Sell them or reuse? where did all the junk go?
Ulg
5 / 5 (1) Dec 04, 2010
I'm guessing they paid so little for the parts because the GPU's and other components of the PS3 are not top of the range but more mid range of class 1 GPU's. The costs of GPU's goes exponential the higher the class and the higher the performance within the class.


Funny I thought it was because the ram operates at 3200MHz (fast as GDDR5) but is generations old, or that it has 256, 256 bit registers while a current database server Itanium has 128-128 bit registers
Bob_B
not rated yet Dec 04, 2010
@tehdog
BOFH has been around since 1983 at least. The original author was the best. All these rip-offs are not very funny after reading the originals.
panorama
5 / 5 (1) Dec 04, 2010
@panorama, you to are also a retard, Ps3 OS do not support clusters. and even if they did, why?

Whoa whoa whoa...easy there friend, I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I was commenting on the fact that although Sony probably enjoys the PR that something like this brings. I'm sure they can't ignore the fact that these 1760 PS3's will never generate any additional revenue. For Example, the software available through PSN or Retail Game Discs. I wasn't commenting on the Software of the PS3 itself. Sorry for the confusion. Thanks for calling me retarded as opposed to just asking what I meant...mature.
panorama
not rated yet Dec 04, 2010
@panorama, you to are also a retard, Ps3 OS do not support clusters. and even if they did, why?

For example, let's say instead of being grouped in to a Cluster that these are normal consumer PS3's. Going off of the average of buying a retail game ($60 in the USA) and a PSN game (Average of $10 in the USA) every other month. In one year that would be $739,200 of sales for Sony and it's partners. That's what I was trying to convey. Why would I even comment on the PS3 software if they state in the article that they are running Linux?
paulagz
5 / 5 (1) Dec 04, 2010
Is all this bickering considered constructive commentary? My simple observation is that this is another example of pathological government purchasing practices, such as 5000.00 for a hammer, etc. instead of finding creative solutions for their needs, such as the PS3 array. I'm no expert, but I have some training in the IT field and I suspect that, with the exception of prototypes, CPU's are generally mass produced, Mr.Krundoloss, regardless of the consumer. I applaud the ingenuity of the creators of the Condor Cluster Project. We need more innovative thinking and less posturing and sour grapes.
-Paulagz
ziprar
not rated yet Dec 05, 2010
I remember reading this story at physorg maybe 10 months ago or smth. This is seriously old news.
rah
1 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2010
Lan party anyone?
CHollman82
1 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2010
I live in Rome NY... I wonder if I could get a tour, I'm sure it's at Griffis...

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