Playstations Power Air Force 'Supercomputer'

Once thought to be just a part of home entertainment systems, Sony’s PlayStation 3 is proving itself to be more than just an online death-match machine. The console’s price-to-performance ratio inspired one Air Force research team to place an order for 1,700 of them to go with the 336 they already have. The system will use 300 to 320 kilowatts at full bore and about 10 percent to 30 percent of that in standby, when most supercomputers are using 5 megawatts, Linderman said. However, much of the time the cluster will only be running the nodes it needs and it will be turned off when not in use. “Supercomputers used to be unique with unique processors,” Linderman said. “By taking advantage of a growing market, the gaming market, we are bringing the price performance to just $2 to $3 per gigaFLOPS.” They have been able to take advantage of about 60 percent of the PlayStations’ performance ability, Linderman said. Once complete, they are expecting to have a unit capable of 500 teraFLOPS or 500 trillion operations per second. The Air Force plans to have the 1,700 they recently ordered fully integrated into the system by June as part of the Department of Defense’s High Performance Computer Modernization Program.

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