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PlayStation 3 gives strength to Stanford's Folding@home

Since last March, the PlayStation 3 has been one of the leading contributing technologies to the Folding@home effort.

Now, less than a year since release, more than one million users have taken part in Stanford University's Folding@home project. According to Sony, this equates to roughly 3,000 PS3 users registering for Folding@home per day or 2 new registered users every minute worldwide.

"Since partnering with SCEI, we have seen our research capabilities increase by leaps and bounds through the continued participation of Folding@home users," said Vijay Pande, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University and Folding@home project lead.  "Now we have over one million PS3 users registered for Folding@home, allowing us to address questions previously considered impossible to tackle computationally, with the goal of finding cures to some of the world's most life-threatening diseases.  We are grateful for the extraordinary worldwide participation by PS3 and PC users around the globe."

According to the Folding@home team, a network of roughly 10,000 PS3s can accomplish the same amount of work as a network of 100,000 PCs. It took just six months after PS3 joining Folding@home for the project to surpass a petaflops, a computing milestone that had never been reached before by a distributed computing network. On September 16, 2007, Folding@home was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world's most powerful distributed computing network.

Currently PS3 users make up approximately 74 percent of the total teraflop computing power of the Folding@home project.

The Folding@home program runs simulations in protein folding and misfolding, helping scientists understand – and hopefully curing – diseases such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's and certain forms of cancer. That’s not all the PS3’s CPU is able to do for the medical community, though, as the Cell Broadband Engine is also helping doctors at Mayo Clinic with medical imaging.

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How Efficient is Distributed Computing?...
By flgt on 2/4/2008 9:32:07 PM , Rating: 2
General question. I was on the Folding/SETI/etc. kick there for a while until I noticed that when I came home my office was uncomfortably hot. Also, while I didn't look into it too much I did see a noticable bump up in my electric bill. I had my laptop and a used dual processor xeon workstation I bought for a good price cranking away. Admittedly I left my computer on 24/7 in an effort to save the world which was stupid in hindsight after becoming aware of how much power a CPU can suck down. Now if you take this experience and apply it to the PS3 population I came up with these numbers on a monthly basis assuming something like 100W for a cell processor running at 100% for 50% of the time(don't know if this is completely accurate, I'm sure someone will correct it):

kWh's used = 0.1kw*30days/month*24hrs/day*50%*422000PS3's= 1.519*10^7 kWh

1.519*10^7 kWh * $0.10 / kWh = $1.519 Million per month

Now obviously I swagged a few numbers here (I also didn't include the cost of cooling the room if necessary in warm climate) but I was wondering about the total cost of distributed computer projects. It's low cost for the organization heading the project since they don't have to purchase the CPU's or the electricity, but are single location supercomputers more cost effective or efficient overall? Can a modern supercomputer work in the petaflops range? You also have overhead of shipping all of the data back and forth and managing a more complex network of computers.

RE: How Efficient is Distributed Computing?...
By Foxery on 2/4/2008 10:03:52 PM , Rating: 3
The key is that no single person or company is footing the entire bill. Nobody has to go get a grant for that $1.5 million... we all just chip in our five bucks and get 'er done.

By Frank M on 2/4/2008 11:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, while someone else makes a buck.

RE: How Efficient is Distributed Computing?...
By flgt on 2/5/2008 7:51:13 AM , Rating: 2
That's my point. Maybe we should just send in $5 a month to the project and have them do the computing in a central location if it's more efficient. I know I sound like an environmentalist wacko but we're talking megawatts of power for the PS3's alone. The IT/computer industry is so frickin wasteful. They've made some strides recently but I think there is a long way to go. I work for a large corporation and their policy for client maintenance is log off and leave on. It's definitely an area that there's room for improvement.

By AlphaVirus on 2/5/2008 12:06:06 PM , Rating: 2
You try telling a 10 year old with a PS3 to send a check written to some random place in California for $5. Then make sure you remind them to put the PO Box #.

I think its better that you have 1mil PS3's doing 1 job each rather 1 super computer doing 1mil jobs.
If 1 person turns his PS3 off, you still have 999,999. If you turn of the 1 super computer you have 0.
If people can not foot the electric bill, they will just turn off the PS3. If a project can not foot the bill on a super computer, they have to shut the project down.

I hear what you are trying to say but it is just more efficient having the PS3's do all the work.
Also remember, the PS3 can do a simple firmware update and move on. Have you ever seen a super computer? They are usualy large rooms full of computational mess. To try and update/upgrade would take time and effort.

Look at it like this, the PS3's are doing the number crunching, and that just leaves the University to do their research.

By Jedi2155 on 2/5/2008 12:09:24 AM , Rating: 2
I had a kill-a-watt meter and had my friend bring over his 80 GB PS3....the thing measured around 190 watts idling in the screen and up to 300 watts gaming! So you can probably easily double your numbers and still come up short with the folding.

By FITCamaro on 2/5/2008 8:52:52 AM , Rating: 2
I keep an X2 3800+ machine with 1GB RAM, 5 hard drives, and a 7600GT on 24/7. If I were to turn it off for an entire month I might save $3.00 on my power bill.

It might get 2 more hard drives here soon.

RE: How Efficient is Distributed Computing?...
By Azzr34l on 2/5/2008 6:04:03 PM , Rating: 2
I'd like to see Stanford produce some data that shows the Folding project is actually going to produce something. Nobody knows if it's going to produce any tangible results.

Millions of users running their PS3's at maximum capacity is DEFINITELY producing something. It consumes 220W at the plug (maybe less for the new 40GB versions) while Folding. You take that power draw times millions of users, some possibly running 24/7 and you don't see a huge waste of power resources? Anyone here realize how many power generating plants are still using coal? That's a lot of harmful pollutants being generated by this Folding project.

Some people just don't get it. Your energy companies send you reminders to turn off your lights when you're not in the room and you don't think the power sucking PS3 is any different?


By Durrr on 2/5/2008 9:07:19 PM , Rating: 2
power production plants like coal/nuclear run at 100% all the time due to a large energy input to get them going.They supply a "base load". Natural Gas/Gas Turbine(read oil) electrical production facilities are the units which are throttled based on grid usage.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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