Air Force Uses PlayStation Processors to Build Supercomputer

Thursday, December 02, 2010
Condor Cluster
Gamers might think Xbox is the best system for playing war games, but can it be transformed into a supercomputer for use by the U.S. military? Sony’s PlayStation 3 can.
In what might be called supercomputing-on-the-cheap, a U.S. Air Force research laboratory in upstate New York strung together more than 1,700 PlayStation 3 processors and created the fastest interactive computer currently utilized by the Department of Defense.
Nicknamed the Condor Cluster, the supercomputer allows the military to perform fast analysis of large high-resolution imagery captured by satellites. The PS3 cluster is capable of performing 500 trillion operations every second, which is about a third of the speed of the third fastest computer in the world–the IBM Roadrunner computer used by the Department of Energy.
But the Roadrunner cost about $120 million to build. The PS3 cluster only $2.3 million.
“It wasn’t something as simple as going to Best Buy or Wal-Mart,” Mark Barnell, the high-performance computing director at the Air Force Research Lab’s operation in Rome, New York, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Barnell said the Air Force purchased the PlayStations directly from Sony.
The Condor Cluster was the brainchild of Richard Linderman, a senior scientist in the advanced computing laboratory, who challenged his colleagues to see what they could do with video gaming consoles and microchips.
The PlayStation 3 processor was developed jointly by IBM, Sony and Toshiba.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Defense Department Discusses New Sony PlayStation Supercomputer (by Stephen Koff, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
What's Under the Hood? (by Paul Croxon, Airman Magazine)


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