The Air Force hopes to use the power of 2,200 Sony PlayStation 3 consoles in future research projects

The United States Air Force plans to utilize the power of 2,200 Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles – the branch is expected to network the consoles into a powerful cluster that can be used for research purposes.

Researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory hope to have the improved cluster available sometime in May or June.  The USAF already has used its current group of PS3s to help investigate Neuromorphic Computing, High Definition Video image processing, and a "Back Projection Synthetic Aperture Radar Imager."

"With respect to cell processors, a single 1U server configured with two 3.2GHz cell processors can cost up to $8K while two Sony PS3s cost approximately $600," according to the USAF requisition form.  "Though a single 3.2 GHz cell processor can deliver over 200 gigaflops, whereas the Sony PS3 configuration delivers approximately 150 gigaflops, the approximately tenfold cost difference per gigaflops makes the Sony PS3 the only viable technology for [high performance computing] applications."

The AFRL has a $2M research grant through the Department of Defense's High Performance Computing Modernization Program, though it's unknown if any significant breakthroughs have been found.

Specifically, the USAF is expected to use customized software designed for use on the Cell Broadband Engine architecture.  Sony uses the Cell processor in its PS3, a powerful computing technology that has been favored among researchers -- the PS3 is already used by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and U.S. Customs Enforcement.

The USAF continues to expand its use of computer networks and cloud computing as it develops new software technology that can be used both in the United States and on the battlefields overseas.

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