Air Force math: 2,000 PlayStation 3s = 1 supercomputer

Air Force builds a supercomputer with Sony PlayStation 3 video game consoles

 What do you get when you put 2,000 Sony PlayStation 3 video game consoles in one room? No, not a noisy hive of adolescents — OK, some adults, too — trying to set a world record for the biggest multiplayer game session.

Rather, that would be a bargain-priced supercomputer, like the one the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y., is creating by stringing together a couple thousand of the extremely powerful $300 PS3s, reports Warren Peace of Stars and Stripes.

Adding in open-source Linux software and some commercial graphics processors, the Air Force’s PS3 cluster will come in at $2 to $3 per 1 billion floating point operations per second, or gigaflops, of processing power. Ten years ago, the University of Kentucky claimed a record by building a supercomputer that cost $640 per gigaflop.

The Air Force lab will use its system for target recognition applications, such as Back Projection Synthetic Aperture Radar Imager formation, high-definition video image processing, and neuromorphic computing, which mimics human nervous systems. Important stuff, for sure, but it doesn’t sound as much fun as scoring a touchdown against your buddy on "Madden NFL 10."

About the Author

John Zyskowski is a senior editor of Federal Computer Week. Follow him on Twitter: @ZyskowskiWriter.

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