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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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And they can play Modern Warfare 2
By Esquire on 11/30/2009 8:22:05 AM , Rating: 2
They just wanna play MAG or Modern Warfare 2 LOL Really the PS3 is great at F@H... gets 4 units a day done.

Chuck the CAPper
Me playing Modern Warfare 2 with my face!

RE: And they can play Modern Warfare 2
By steven975 on 11/30/2009 8:45:44 AM , Rating: 2
Well 3.5 or so per day as it takes my PS3 about 7 hours per unit in F@H.

Not all that awesome a value anymore really. My GTX295 can do ~32 units/day if I disable SLI.

RE: And they can play Modern Warfare 2
By Chaser on 11/30/09, Rating: 0
RE: And they can play Modern Warfare 2
By Boze on 11/30/2009 10:28:15 AM , Rating: 4
Whoa, easy there Envious Evan...

Its pretty common knowledge that F@H doesn't yet support SLI for its processing, at least among DT readers. Furthermore, 3.5 units a day for $300. You can build even a GTX 295 SLI rig for $2000, maybe less, so do the math... 32 divided by 3.5 is 9.14. 9.14 x $300 is $2742. You might want to do some basic math before you try to tell him that using his GTX 295 is a not cost beneficial, which is the claim you're veiling under that jealousy.

Did you also think about the power requirement of 9 PlayStation 3s versus a single computer? Even one running dual GTX 295s?

Hope you're not an engineer, because if you tackle every problem with such narrow-mindedness, you're definitely a loss to your employer.

By cplusplus on 11/30/2009 12:06:02 PM , Rating: 3
But don't they send different types of units to GPUs since they aren't as good at doing branching? The GPUs get the pure numbers crunching units, the PS3 gets number crunching and a little branching, and the CPU gets most of the branching. Or at least that's how I read it works.

By Elementalism on 11/30/2009 12:40:05 PM , Rating: 2
For doing F@H I could build a 295 machine for probably under 800 bucks.

RE: And they can play Modern Warfare 2
By steven975 on 11/30/2009 1:34:12 PM , Rating: 3
Thanks for that...I wasn't trying to boast my system as it is no longer top dog...well at least it is until the 5970 is actuall sold, but that's beside the point.

My point was using a PS3 to do F@H is not a good use of resources. My GTX295 system uses about 400W with both GPUs going. 10 PS3's would use, what, 2KW, assuming you get the most efficient version? And it would cost $3000. A GTX295 folder can be built for less than a third of that and will use far less power. Not to mention you can actually USE the computer when it is folding!

I seem to remember looking at the F@H stats like 6 months ago that the handful of people using the Nvidia client were contributing more than ALL of the clients using the PS3.

RE: And they can play Modern Warfare 2
By B3an on 11/30/2009 3:23:23 PM , Rating: 2
If you have to disable SLI, and still get that performance, then a GTX285 would be around the same performance or better. And a 285 is also quite a bit cheaper.

I wonder why they purchased PS3's, they are noway the best option for this. Complete waste of money, as usual by the military.

By feraltoad on 11/30/2009 5:13:58 PM , Rating: 2
It would seem like F@H could utilize each core like it would with two different cards, but not concurrently process units under SLI. It shouldn't matter since the same number of units will end up getting processed. Also, I bet Fermi will be quite a F@H force even if it doesn't shine for gaming; which would be pretty ridiculous for most people until GPGPU takes off.

By Veerappan on 11/30/2009 5:52:44 PM , Rating: 2
Specifically, the USAF is expected to use customized software designed for use on the Cell Broadband Engine architecture.

This. If they already have the software written specifically for Cell, then buying a farm of Teslas or GeForces might not be an option without rewriting the software for those cards.

By Elementalism on 11/30/2009 12:39:16 PM , Rating: 2
Nvidia sells Tesla units that can probably crunch more numbers than these PS3s and cost a lot less in electricity and infrastrucutre costs.

RE: And they can play Modern Warfare 2
By Einy0 on 11/30/2009 9:35:05 AM , Rating: 2
I think he plays FPS on consoles better with his face than I do my hands. Give me a mouse and kb and then I'm good...

By jconan on 12/1/2009 2:22:11 AM , Rating: 2
They probably also factored in the RRoD factor since it takes time to ship it back and get a new console just to train their officers...

By StevoLincolnite on 11/30/2009 8:20:39 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if Sony still looses money on each console sold? Because this would be the draw-back of having the Cell processor in the console for the company, considering they will probably never game or watch movies on the machines anyhow, hence they loose royalties from the games and movies.

RE: .
By Denigrate on 11/30/09, Rating: -1
RE: .
By fatedtodie on 11/30/2009 8:39:13 AM , Rating: 3
Before you type a response like this please research a bit? If all of your knowledge of the military's spending comes from the movie Independance Day you are quite far off. As someone that did purchases for the USAF year ago we ALWAYS went for the CHEAPEST prices even if we had to do extra paperwork to go to non GSA sites.

Please this isn't a conspiracy theory arena. Go troll elsewhere with your anti US military rants.

RE: .
By PAPutzback on 11/30/2009 9:12:54 AM , Rating: 2
I call BS. In the motorpool I worked at they put a stainless steel cookie sheet under every car in the lot to catch oil drips. Only to leave the pan sit there as your drove away and have the rain wash it off into the ground water anyways. How much do stainless steel cookie sheets cost? This is not an anti government rant. Just one of hundreds of facts about how people working for the government will waste money when it isn't their own pocket book.

And what did they say, 8G for a two processor 3.2Ghz system. I guarantee you could build a much cheaper system with AMD quad cores.

RE: .
By weskurtz0081 on 11/30/2009 9:29:22 AM , Rating: 2
The key here is, no single person's experience in the military is going to be representative of the entire branch.

Just because your squadron had idiots in it that left the pans out doesn't mean every squadron was that way. BTW, I am sure you could have volunteered to go around picking those things up.

So, I call BS on your BS calling. Just because you had a specific experience with drip pans doesn't mean EVER squadron in the military is that way. And just because that guy might have had a cost conscious squadron doesn't mean they are all that way.

RE: .
By PAPutzback on 11/30/2009 11:22:43 AM , Rating: 2
I think you are missing the point, "Stainless Steel" cookie sheets were used. When I got to Ft Polk we used old Coffee cans with a little bit of kitty litter in the bottom and everyday when the trucks left you had to go grind kittle litter into any oil spot with your boot heel and sweep it up. But the original poster was right. There is a huge amout of waste and over paying going on in the services. Money that could be spent on ammo or other key supplies.

RE: .
By rkoehlerjr on 11/30/2009 11:50:25 AM , Rating: 2
A small experince doesnt mean it is that way everywhere...and what was done many years ago, doesnt mean it is done that way now. The military spends money on stuff that they dont always need but when they do buy something, it is the cheapest possible. You have to fight with contracting to get best value when they see best value as cheapest.

RE: .
By weskurtz0081 on 11/30/2009 12:47:15 PM , Rating: 2
I think you are missing my point, just because one place did it one way doesn't mean all the places do. Is there wasteful spending? Sure, there is EVERYWHERE in the government. My point is though, one experience in the military isn't sufficient to paint the entire DOD with such a broad brush. There are efficient AND inefficient (see: wasteful) spenders in the military, I have seen both sides of that coin.

RE: .
By AEvangel on 12/1/2009 10:03:06 AM , Rating: 2
My point is though, one experience in the military isn't sufficient to paint the entire DOD with such a broad brush.

I would say yes you can paint the DOD and the ENTIRE Government with such a broad stroke you name me one other group or company that can misplace 2.3 TRILLION dollars?? Then tell me that company and or business is still not wasting money.

Rumsfeld Sept 10, 2001: The Pentagon cannot account for $2.3 TRILLION

RE: .
By Rugar on 11/30/2009 11:21:10 AM , Rating: 2
I call stupidity and laziness. We took #10 cans from the messhall, cut them down to fit underneath the vehicle, and used those as drip cans. Then every week when we did vehicle maintenance it was part of our job to empty the cans into the POL waste.

RE: .
By jconan on 12/1/2009 2:14:08 AM , Rating: 2
it's typically suppose to be lowest responsible bid for most gov. agencies but the caveat is to what companies their purchasing office sends out the bid notices to and how the specification is written up like mil. spec. that's probably why they spent 8g for 3.2ghz system...

RE: .
By Mitch101 on 11/30/2009 8:36:57 AM , Rating: 2
I was thinking the same thing.

Also IBM is dropping the cell processor.

Supposedly the PS4 design is going to Intel and that NVIDIA also lost the graphics for the PS4. Seems they ran into the same issue that Microsoft ran into with NVIDIA and the first X-Box.

RE: .
By steven975 on 11/30/2009 1:40:55 PM , Rating: 2
They actually dropped on model using the architecture, not the whole architecture.

I still think Cell was not a good fit for the PS3 anyway.

hehe, if PS4 gets Intel, maybe it'll play xbox games! Hehe, sure.

Too late
By Spookster on 11/30/2009 10:08:44 AM , Rating: 5
This story was already posted a year ago on DT

RE: Too late
By CZroe on 12/1/2009 8:16:51 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah. It looks like they just upped their tally from 300 to 2,200. They have to realize that the current console can't run arbitrary software ala older PS3s with OtherOS.self (Linux) installed, so I wonder how they plan to do this.

Also, considering that this isn't the first time we've heard of PS3 clustering, I wonder how much clustering efforts have inflated overall PS3 sales. Anyone have an estimate?

Ironic isn't it
By glennforum on 11/30/2009 9:53:15 AM , Rating: 3
Ironic that Iraq back in the 90's was clustering game consoles to give them super computing capability for their military applications.

Now we do it...

RE: Ironic isn't it
By CZroe on 12/1/2009 8:13:28 AM , Rating: 2
Ugh. That was a false rumor started due to the Japanese export restriction on powerful CPUs (giving foreigners more powerful tech than their military could counter), which was lifted before the international launches.

Where's all the fanb at? O.o
By The0ne on 11/30/2009 4:30:40 PM , Rating: 2
Not a single one commenting here it seems. Simply amazing. I guess all these technical talks going back and forth really did their brain some good for a change other than "mine is better than yours so shut up" kind of statements.

:) For that matter, where are the trolls? Playstation3 for example hahahaha Slowly converting my nephews to the age of computers from their console thinking ways myself :P

RE: Where's all the fanb at? O.o
By crazyblackman on 11/30/2009 9:05:07 PM , Rating: 1
I guess all these technical talks going back and forth really did their brain some good for a change other than "mine is better than yours so shut up" kind of statements.

You wanna see trolling?

Alright you boring little nerd.

"Why isn't the supposedly equally powerful 360 processor a consideration"?

1)its unreliable?

2)the cell processor is better at number crunching than it is at processing the graphically superior games we are now starting to enjoy?

3)Microsoft won't allow ANY modifications to their console that would improve that piece of shit they sold the general public?

4)As mentioned in the statements above, the 360, while being a "fun piracy infested entertainment hub", that is constantly policed by "big brother M$ and his downloadable banhammer code", is an unreliable piece of shit that is made by the same company who shamelessly sold us "Windows ME". Ummm...maybe?

5)Or...the cell processor is actually more powerful than the 360 chipset after all?

6)Or...the 360 is an overpriced and unreliable piece of shit, oops...said that one already.

7)The PS3 just looks better and is just plain more appealing...(and isn't a piece of shit)?

8) "It just does EVERYTHING"?

Now go ahead and get all techie on me with all your advanced little theories and computer nerd observations.

You know...SLi this and that...gee fucking whiz already. You guys are constantly spending money upgrading your video cards to keep up with the latest directX enabled, lame-assed Bungie/Valve/Infinity Ward rehashed game.


I bet your girfriends/wives are sneaking around behind your backs, offering up their company to that one manly friend of yours that doesn't have time to be sitting around playing online computer games and boasting about their new "gaming rig".

By crazyblackman on 11/30/2009 9:38:01 PM , Rating: 2
@ TheONE

Oh and also appear to be an ignorant bystander to this technical discussion. The best comment you can offer is to call out a troll? Believe me, I was just as happy sitting here drinking a beer and alternating watching MNF/browsing the net reading these know-it-all comments from you "motherboard freaks". You just couldn't leave well enough alone, could you? Now that I have my troll suit on, I think I will have another beer... and then I'm off to cause trouble somewhere more lively.

Well..thanks anyway buddy... and say Hi to the wife for me. Oh...and please, please remember to never come home early without calling home first. It's for your own good.


Not heard of nVidia Tesla?
By Visual on 11/30/2009 10:57:51 AM , Rating: 2
I guess their main reason for going with the PS3 is that their software would need significant refactoring to run on anything but Cell.

Still it is silly to present it as if the performance of the PS3 is anything special or unreachable by other platforms. Video cards have surpassed it since a long time now, for example a GeForce 9800GTX+ is at over 700 GFLOPs, and that's desktop consumer hardware. Special dedicated nVidia Tesla hardware can pack upwards of 2000 GFLOPs in 1U, I don't know what the costs would be though.
Not completely general purpose, granted, but using it as such has received a lot of focus lately and I would guess it would do the job fine.

And lately even general purpose CPUs are reaching higher performance figures than the PS3 Cell - an i7 965 is 70 GFLOPs, so a dual-socket xeon config has the Cell beaten. Not that it'll be cheaper, I'm just putting it out there so people realize the Cell isn't some magical, untouchable super-performer.

I don't see how they get the 150 GFLOPs figure for a PS3 Cell either - it has only 7 active SPUs at 12.8 GFLOPs each, so 90 GFLOPs. I couldn't find info about the PPE but really it can't add that much, so are they also include the GPU of the PS3 in their figures?
Oh and it is worth mentioning that the 12.8 figures are only valid for single-precision operations, try to use double-precision and you're down to under 2 GFLOPs per SPE.

RE: Not heard of nVidia Tesla?
By MrPickins on 11/30/2009 3:19:20 PM , Rating: 2
In addition to all that, the PS3 cluster is going to be bottle-necked by the latency of ethernet links. (Like just about any NUMA architecture)

The workloads will need to be fairly granular with minimal accesses to non-local memory to get good performance.

What does SONY get out of this?
By Belard on 12/1/2009 6:03:45 AM , Rating: 2
Since USAF is using the PS3s with custom software and not games... SONY loses money on each console.

Wonder what they do with all those copies of free games?

By crazyblackman on 12/1/2009 8:58:14 PM , Rating: 2

Since USAF is using the PS3s with custom software and not games... SONY loses money on each console. Wonder what they do with all those copies of free games?

What did you just say.......??? That didn't make any sense at all.

I'm presently wondering if you are smarter than a 5th grader. It surely doesn't appear to be so. Turn off your computer and go stand in the corner.

what about the blueray drives
By BlendMe on 11/30/2009 7:37:57 PM , Rating: 2
I just wonder what they will do with all those blueray drives and (maybe) hard drives and card readers????

Because they can't..
By Trisped on 12/1/2009 12:21:49 AM , Rating: 2
Because they can't get gamers to buy it.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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