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Xbox 360 may fight alongside the PlayStation 3 to help find cures for disease

After the version 1.60 system update for the PlayStation 3, Sony’s console has been capable of lending a helping hand to Stanford University’s Folding@home effort to help find cures to various protein-related diseases. The PlayStation 3 has been contributing more than half of the total processing power of Folding@home, thanks to the power of the Cell Broadband Engine, a point which has been much publicized.

The PS3’s in the distributed computing project has Xbox 360 owners curious if and how well their consoles would work on Folding@home. Peter Moore, VP of Microsoft’s entertainment division, recently addressed that issue saying, “We continue to look at this and see whether there’s real value,” adding that Bill Gates “quite frankly has had a conversation about this” and notes that Gates is interested in applying “philanthropic processing power to big problems.”

“But I’m not quite sure yet whether we’re seeing real tangible results from the PlayStation 3 Folding@Home initiative,” Moore continued. “Then if we truly believe that we can in some way marshall the resources of a much larger installed base of Xbox 360 owners, with a processer that’s of equal power to the PS3, then you have my commitment that we’ll look at that. And if we believe we can add value to solving a gnarly problem such as the medical problems and the health problems that Folding@home seems to be doing, then we’ll certainly look at that very strongly.”

Recently, Stanford professor and Folding@home program lead Vijay Pande said in an interview that the PlayStation 3’s CPU would be far more effective than the Xbox 360’s CPU.

“We are simulating key processes in protein folding and misfolding in Alzheimer's Disease. PS3's are performing aspects of these simulations, and doing so about 20 times faster than a typical PC,” Pande said. When asked if the Xbox 360 could be of use to the Folding@home program, he answered, “Possibly, although the cell processor in the PS3 is much more powerful for our calculations than the CPU in the Xbox 360.”

Microsoft may not want to participate in Folding@home in fears that the project would point out that the PlayStation 3’s Cell Broadband Engine is faster than the Xbox 360’s Xenon processor at performing protein-folding calculations.

While the Xbox 360 CPU may not be tops in terms of Folding@home, its ATI-developed Xenos GPU could possibly eclipse PS3’s CPU. ATI Radeon GPUs currently running Folding@home are outperforming the PlayStation 3 on a per capita basis. Though whether or not the Xbox 360 will ever get its crack at helping to cure a disease remains to be seen.

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By paydirt on 5/11/2007 9:05:57 AM , Rating: 3
"But I’m not quite sure yet whether we’re seeing real tangible results from the PlayStation 3 Folding@Home initiative,"

I don't know what this quote is supposed to mean since PS3 is contributing an average of 600 teraflops of computing power. Prior to the PS3's addition to F@H, the most powerful supercomputer, IBM's Blue Gene (or whatnot) had a peak (not average) power of 360 teraflops. It's pretty real and tangible.

Yeah, the XBOX 360 may have heat problems because they are already having failure problems. PS3 doesn't seem to have the same problems. It doesn't run as hot when it is crunching numbers compared to games, so it is a lower "heat load" but still it is sustained.

RE: Tangible?
By kkwst2 on 5/11/2007 10:12:44 AM , Rating: 2
I think he was saying he's not sure we're going to get tangible benefits from the research being supported. That's how I took it at least. My interpretation was that he wants to make sure that if they're going to put resources into supporting the project, they want to make sure it's worthwhile.

RE: Tangible?
By hyperbolicparody on 5/11/2007 10:20:49 AM , Rating: 2
But has F@H sold more PS3s? I'd guess that since Microsoft Gaming would be responsible for writing a client, they'd have to move a (decent) sized crew off of existing products to make a app. that could compete with a PS3 (IE use all of the Logical CPUs on the XBox360 and modify the ATI app as needed for their tweaked GPU).

Before doing that, they'd need to feel really confident that they could at least compete with a PS3. I'm really not a big fan of the PS3's hardware, but I think all us 360 fanboys need to admit that it has some giddy-up under the hood when properly applied.

That's money invested... and unless they can finagle a way to take a tax-credit or feel that the market would support such a move (IE improve image/sell more units) I'm not so sure it makes buisness sense. In the end, they're responsible to the shareholders, not the general public (although Mr. Gates is one of the most Philanthropic people on Earth... and should still have the weight to say "do it now" and all of the Evil Empire quakes).

RE: Tangible?
By Hemipower on 5/11/2007 12:04:04 PM , Rating: 3
I wanna see how long these 360s are gonna last now, with the cpu and gpu being used to fold, how hot is this thing gonna get. I am now on my 4th 360 and have friends with similar experiences, with the folding I'd probably be on my 6th.

My Ps3 is on all day folding and never gets really hot, and its a launch Ps3, albeit there is nothing else to do with it yet. I am curious if microsoft is just making PR about this, saying "if they let us we can show the 360 cpu is as powerful as the cell", but in reality they might have the program already and not want to put it out because of the opposite, I don't know.

Here are some reciept pics from BB.

RE: Tangible?
By Tsuwamono on 5/11/2007 12:16:21 PM , Rating: 2
my AMD 64 4200 is OCed to 2.6ghz and i run F@H for 16 hours at a time.. when my PC is idle its at 28C.. when my PC is running F@H its at 32C. Running F@H doesnt raise your temps that much. The reason the 360s were failing was an actual problem with the die. Last year Celestica i believe was contracted to find the problem so that IBM could fix it. Now im not sure if they fixed it or not but i know that the 360 doesnt die from heat unless your dumb enough to put it inside a box. In which case the PS3 would die too.

PS i run stock AMD HS and i have 1 120mm fan in my PC for cooling

RE: Tangible?
By phusg on 5/11/2007 2:45:12 PM , Rating: 2
Running F@H doesnt raise your temps that much.

That's a dangerous generalization! You certainly can't make it on the basis of comparing your PC to the XBox 360.

I think the other guys in this thread are right and Microsoft isn't going for the folding@home support because they are afraid of even higher failure rates, especially on the older hardware revisions. They could probably release a version that is dependent on hardware revision that only runs on suitable XBoxes, but they may see that a downer on the publicity side. That would be a real shame for the medical research that Stanford is trying to do on the basis of the folding@home client. I would advise them to adjust the client so that it throttles system usage back depending on temperature/hardware revision; that way everyone's a winner!

RE: Tangible?
By jkresh on 5/11/2007 3:04:49 PM , Rating: 2
Something is wrong with either your temperature monitor or your folding at home installation. F@H should be loading you cpu at 100%, while its not as intense a load as orthos you should see a much higher then 4C difference between load and idle with a stock amd heatsink.

RE: Tangible?
By SmokeRngs on 5/14/2007 2:40:58 PM , Rating: 2
I'd guess that since Microsoft Gaming would be responsible for writing a client

This would be incorrect. The Stanford Folding Project would be responsible for writing the actual client. Yes, they would need help and collaboration from the Xbox team to properly implement and test it but that would likely be most of what MS would have to do.

Stanford has been the only one to write clients for their program. This is one of the reasons it has taken so long for an SMP client to come out even though they had been promising it for years.

Very brave!
By jabber on 5/11/2007 5:33:20 AM , Rating: 3
MS must be taking a bit of a risk by the thought of thousands of 360's running full pelt 24 hours a day.

The failiure risk must still fall within 'acceptable tolerances' for them I guess.

Maybe the F@H client app might just be for the fabled 65nm with its revised power and heat specs?

I salute those who take the risk. I wont be.

Good luck!

RE: Very brave!
By jabber on 5/11/2007 5:38:11 AM , Rating: 2
Thats if they decide to do it of course.

Maybe they will find a less 'taxing' cause to support?

RE: Very brave!
By OxBow on 5/11/2007 9:48:16 AM , Rating: 5
Well, I don't think I'd consider this as real bravery. Real bravery are all the people fighting cancer or showing up for duty in Iraq, etc. Now I'll get off my soapbox.

Since I just received my extended warrantee in the mail from MS, I don't think I'd have any problems at all running F@H (or something similar) on my 360. Sure, it might burn up a few consoles, but since MS is bragging on how good their service is, that's ok. The extended warratee runs to July '09 so in the course of the next two years, I'd expect to send it in another four times (once every six months seems to be a decent average).

As for whether the PS3 is contributing any "real results" you need to look beyond the Tflops and see what actual progress is being made on the research. When you do, it looks even more impressive. Stanford is saying that they are having to accelerate their research schedule to accomodate the speed increase from the PS3.

I think that MS should jump on the bandwagon here. It's not just about raw Tflops here, it's also about the human element. Fan loyalty and bragging rights are at stake here, and a real competition between the two camps could start as each side tries to turn in more WU's. That's a competition that everyone could support. Much better than a bunch of flame wars on internet message boards.

RE: Very brave!
By bkm32 on 5/11/2007 12:24:25 PM , Rating: 2
Nice post. I'd rate it higher, but I've already contributed to this board.

RE: Very brave!
By leexgx on 5/13/2007 5:31:47 PM , Rating: 2
i was thinking that there be more `Red ring of deaths` i think thay should only let it be done on the new Xbox 360 (65) alot more probly fail

we not considered how many PS3's are going to fail been used all the time, but it may be luck but the ps3 mite not fail as much as the 360

allso from the noise the 360 makes when its doing nothing to when its doing folding fan be at max speed all the time

nothing more than hot air from exec...
By dome1234 on 5/11/2007 6:38:04 AM , Rating: 2
this simply put, it's nothing more than bragging rights from execs from both camps. 'Whatever you can do, I could too' mentality.

Noting the above post on heat dissipation/potential red rings.

Is it just me or moore had developed habit of sprouting nonsense lately? For example, he stated the 360 failure rate is a moving target that should not be the focus of consumers.

I remember him saying nobody cares about backward comp. It's strange when most ppl are playing halo2 on 360. by bc. The list goes on.

I'm waiting for krazy ken's responses before his impeding retirement.

RE: nothing more than hot air from exec...
By TravisO on 5/11/2007 10:27:26 AM , Rating: 2
>> I remember him saying nobody cares about backward comp. It's strange when most ppl are playing halo2 on 360

Backwards compatibility is a funny thing, it's something everybody thinks they want, but after 6 months (or the next killer app) nobody cares about the old games. I'm just as guilty of this, I even bought Halo 2 shortly after my 360 purchase. But I am kind of peeved the spring update didn't add any more game compatibility, which hasn't changed for 5 months ago, from Dec 2005. To me that signals MS is done with backwards compatibility, although they were upfront from the beginning about limited support for this and they've already exceeded their original plans for Xbox 1 compatibility.

Keep in mind MS did embrace Halo's popularity, and the 360 supports it and improves it, the game supports 720p HD on the 360 and smoother rendering (there were some amazing comparison pics out there).

By TOAOCyrus on 5/11/2007 12:56:12 PM , Rating: 2
Backwards compatibility updates come seperately from system updates. The last update was in april 2007.

By ajfink on 5/11/2007 12:02:10 PM , Rating: 2
I hope you realize that Bill Gates donates more money to philanthropic causes than most nations. It would surprise me if the idea of F@H on the 360 hadn't crossed his mind.

If the software could be properly written to harness the GPU and the CPU of the 360, it would turn out similar numbers to the PS3. When it comes down to it, if Bill Gates made a press statement say "we won't turn in as many WUs, but we'll be doing our part," people would eat it up. I would. I want my 360 to be able to fold (my I also have two P4 rigs dedicated purely to folding and an A64 system my sister uses that is a part-time folder).

Before anyone comments about electricity bills, I'm in college. I pay for housing, flat-rate. An actual advantage to dorm living....

Don't hold your breath guys...
By TravisO on 5/11/2007 10:34:28 AM , Rating: 2
F@H is never coming to the 360, the reasons are obvious (as stated above):

1. It will increase failure rate
2. MS's warranty is 1yr (see #1)
3. It would allow people to directly compare the 360 to the PS3
4. It's a usage of resources that are too busy keeping the 360 Dashboard feature rich enough to stay ahead of PS3 & Wii

Even though the move to 64nm will make #1 and #2 less important, that won't change anything because people with 90nm 360s will run the client. And MS would NEVER make the F@H app 65nm only because it would confuse the market and make people think their 90nm are inferior or outdated.

By TOAOCyrus on 5/11/2007 12:59:11 PM , Rating: 1
I see no reason to believe F@H will increase the failure rates.

The 360 would destroy the PS3 at F@H as long is it runs on the GPU. ATi r520/580/r600 can do it so I am sure the zenos can.

RE: Don't hold your breath guys...
By phusg on 5/11/2007 2:52:16 PM , Rating: 1
As you say #1 and #2 get less important with later revisions. #3 should be in the XBox's favour and #4 and #5 can be resolved by throttling the speed of the client according to temperature/system stability.

RE: Don't hold your breath guys...
By Thmstec on 5/12/2007 10:49:32 PM , Rating: 2
by usage of resources, I think he means development resources, not system resources....right?

RE: Don't hold your breath guys...
By AndreasM on 5/11/2007 4:26:37 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe they'll release it after the warranties have expired on the problematic X360 revisions.

whats the point?
By adam92682 on 5/11/2007 11:53:15 AM , Rating: 5
I dont see why everyone is getting worked up over this folding thing. What diseases have been cured from the results so far? NONE!!! I would never run any of these programs unless they send me a check.

RE: whats the point?
By Le Québécois on 5/12/2007 2:09:01 AM , Rating: 2
While I understand your point of view, you might want to read mine.

I for one, suffer from a disease and even if it's not on the Folding@home list, I can understand what it feels like to know someone is working to help you get better. And even if just a few XBOX360 owners use it, that's not much but it's better than nothing.

I would never run any of these programs unless they send me a check.

You won't think that way if you ever have serious health problem someday.

ATI GPU can't run too much folding actually!
By EclipsedAurora on 5/12/2007 3:00:48 AM , Rating: 2
While the Xbox 360 CPU may not be tops in terms of Folding@home, its ATI-developed Xenos GPU could possibly eclipse PS3’s CPU. ATI Radeon GPUs currently running Folding@home are outperforming the PlayStation 3 on a per capita basis. Though whether or not the Xbox 360 will ever get its crack at helping to cure a disease remains to be seen.

That's a way too general and misleading conclusion. According to StanFord, ATI GPU can run a very limited set of folding only. It is because GPU is still not a general purpose design. That means ATI GPU can help a very limited sort of Folding only. Current what ATI GPU is Folding are some operation completely different from PS3 or x86. In addition, not all ATI GPU achitecture is suitable for Folding. In general, only X1900 series is good at Folding, while heavy penformance penlaty will be a result when running the code on x1800 series. Not mentioning the code can't work with ALL OTHER ATI GPU at all!

Also, StanFord also illustrate the possibility of having the nVidia hardware inside PS3 to "Fold" together with Cell BE.

RE: ATI GPU can't run too much folding actually!
By abakshi on 5/12/2007 3:24:27 AM , Rating: 2
Actually the ATI client is working on mid-range cards from the Radeon X1600 and up. While they're obviously slower than X1950XT's at folding, they're still quite a bit faster than the CPU client. In any case, the Xenos is architecturally closer to the X1900 (48 shader pipes, iirc) for this task than the X1800, etc., so it should do at least as well as a mid-range X1900 series card, assuming they can write software to handle GPGPU functions passing through MS' framework in between.

By Thmstec on 5/12/2007 11:00:08 PM , Rating: 2
umm, no, the Xenos isn't at all like a x1900, it is FAR closer to an 2900. It uses 48 unified shaders, not anything like the weird 16x3 pixel shaders on the x1900.

And what is meant by the GPU clients running fewer apps, its that they can only run one type of folding application...(THIS IS A GENERALIZATION)lets just say there are 5 different ways to fold, a normal CPU can do any of the 5 types, a PS3 can run 3 out of the 5, and a GPU can run 1 out of the 5. But the CPU is the slowest, PS3 imbetween, GPU out in front.

Xenon + Xenos
By soydios on 5/11/2007 10:14:51 AM , Rating: 2
Since ATi desktop hardware can already run F@H, couldn't they use the XBox 360's Xenos GPU to accelerate it, too?
Run the F@H GPU client on one core of the Xenon CPU, the F@H CPU client on another, and leave the last core for any other background maintenance tasks.
It seems to me like that would make the XBox 360 a fairly powerful F@H machine, and with a greater installed user base than the PS3, they might get something worthwhile out of it.

RE: Xenon + Xenos
By TOAOCyrus on 5/11/2007 1:01:31 PM , Rating: 3
If it uses the Xenos it will destroy the cell in power. ATi GPU's are getting more then teice the GFlops per unit as the PS3's.

Why not just do it?
By keitaro on 5/11/2007 10:19:25 AM , Rating: 3
When asked if the Xbox 360 could be of use to the Folding@home program, he answered, “Possibly, although the cell processor in the PS3 is much more powerful for our calculations than the CPU in the Xbox 360.”

Microsoft may not want to participate in Folding@home in fears that the project would point out that the PlayStation 3’s Cell Broadband Engine is faster than the Xbox 360’s Xenon processor at performing protein-folding calculations.

This part kinda bugs me the most. To me, what does it matter if a processor doesn't contribute as much as Cell? Shouldn't participation be just as good as anything else? After all, there are so many computers out there doing the exact same thing. They're not powerful as the Cell processor but they're contributing anyway.

Regardless of processing power a console system has, I say it'd be beneficial overall just to participate in F@H.

RE: Why not just do it?
By feelingshorter on 5/11/2007 2:15:20 PM , Rating: 2
It would be bad marketing if it wasn't faster than the PS3 at F@H. I can almost guarantee it that if Microsoft found out F@H runs slower on the 360, you'd never hear another word from them about it. But, if it beats the PS3, then expect it to make headlines just like the PS4 did. They'd also have to think about the longevity of the system due to heat issues should some people run it 24/7, like how I leave my computer on. Warranty costs? Regardless, as a public company, they will do whats best for business, not to solve the world's problems. Unless thats they choose to advertise it as a goodwill of the company to allow F@H on the 360 should it be slower than the PS3.

By Aikouka on 5/11/2007 9:08:13 AM , Rating: 2
...don't they just have whoever develops the client... develop it. Microsoft runs it through their normal gambit of XBL verification and then distributes it on XBOX Live (for free). Let the user decide if it's worthwhile.

I don't see what their point is... "we don't know if it's worthwhile"... who cares if you don't think it's worthwhile. There are Joe Schmoe's out there running F@H on crappy computers. Should they stop because my C2D is better at F@H?

Although I don't know if I'd run it on my XBOX 360... last thing I want is it dying :P.

RE: Why...
By MikeyJ79 on 5/11/2007 8:45:01 PM , Rating: 2
There are Joe Schmoe's out there running F@H on crappy computers.

Sorry, that's me. :P
Four of the six computers I have running F@H are running processors of 600MHz or less. One PIII-600, two Celeron 533's, and one K6-2+ OC'd to 600. The PIII holds its own, turning in the smaller units in just over a week (thank God for SSE), while the others take 3-4 weeks for the same units. It may not seem like much production compared to today's processors, but three of those four computers aren't occupied otherwise, so why not? Every little bit helps.

By Souka on 5/11/2007 1:59:37 PM , Rating: 1
"PS3's are performing aspects of these simulations, and doing so about 20 times faster than a typical PC"

What is a typical PC?

128mb ram, Celeron 400a, WinME?

kinda curios....

Lets see some benchmarks!!! PS3, vs Xbox360, vs Various PC configs....(including Windows vs Linux)

RE: Hmm...
By Preyfar on 5/14/2007 10:13:49 PM , Rating: 2
I'd love to see how it would run on an system with a mid-range C2D and a 8800 GTX. It's generally well known that GPUs can perform some insane computations compared to compuers, and the PS3 is basically running off of the GPU.

I'd love to see a head to head comparison.

By Eurasianman on 5/11/2007 9:13:46 AM , Rating: 2
Like a previous comment, MS knows there 360s run hot and that folding@home would just cause the box to run extremely hot to a point where it will RoD.

Now, if they release F@H when the new 360 skus come out (the ones with the 65nm), there's no doubt that they waited that long (shows that they agreed that they made hardware that can't is faulty, as in overheats easily since the 360 doesn't have proper cooling... 2 x 80mm fans not enough?? O.O). I'm just glad my 360 hasn't RoD of me after my warranty expired (1st console RoD after 3 months of use). *knocks on wood*

I'd only participate if...
By Jeff7181 on 5/11/2007 5:11:02 PM , Rating: 2
... the Xbox 360 had better power management. In its current state, it gets pretty damn hot just sitting there basically idle downloading Xbox Live content. While the extra heat generated is somewhat welcome in the winter, it's not in the summer and I don't intend to leave it powered on when I'm not watching movies or playing games.

It also needs an improved auto-off feature. Would be nice if I could set it up to play music and shut off after whatever period of time I set.

It is cool and all but...
By Mithan on 5/13/2007 12:16:29 AM , Rating: 2
I would love for MS to come out with this, however...

Can the Xbox360 DO it physically or will the system die?

It is no big secret that the quality of the system is... questionable and personally, after having turned in one system for warranty, I have no desire to experiment with burning up a second system with Folding@home unless I knew the system could take it, and the simple fact is, I no longer trust my 360 to perform for the long term.

publicity stunt?
By Gul Westfale on 5/13/2007 4:36:48 PM , Rating: 2
F@H is certainly a laudable project, but i have the feeling that both sony and MS are using it to get publicity for their systems.

sony repeatedly made announcements of how much their system contributed to F@H, yet they never seem to mention of how it contributes to maing a gamers' life better... so i guess they decided to do this thing, so they could have at least some news to report. and then MS followed suit, because keeping up with the joneses is something the marketing people can spin for positive effect.

again, F@H is a great thing, but shouldn't gaming companies concern themselves with games, and consider this stuff secondary? it looks to me like sony is trying to find excuses to get into the news/sell systems, because apparently the games aren't moving units at all. so maybe they think some sandal-wearing hippie will buy 200 PS3s to run F@H? pathetic. and then MS emulates them...

"Moore" like Kutaragi
By bkm32 on 5/11/2007 9:39:48 AM , Rating: 1
I love the pic for this article. It makes Moore look like a raving lunatic. This is no disrespect to Moore, its just a bad pic that is really funny to view. In fact, with his rantings of late (i.e. "rather than focus on failure were you treated" by CS) and the above pic, he kinda (I know that's not a word) looks like Kutaragi. I guess someone has to carry the crazy-quote mantle now that he's leaving.

Seriously, I think some of the posters here have nailed it on the head--the X360 will crash and burn sooner rather than later if left on 24/7. MS will lose tons in warranty fixes. And they know this.

Expect a F@H in the Fall to coincide with the 65nm chipset around the same time along with a price drop. Then 6 months later expect the warranty to go back down to 90 days provided F@H doesn't break the new architecture.

That 6-month timeframe will be the best time to buy an X360 before MS drastically changes the architecture again and introduces a built Hi-def (BR-DVD or HD-DVD is still TBD) player and game disks will be allowed to take advantage of the increased disk capacity.

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