US Air Force builds super-computer out of PS3s

Calls it 'fastest interactive computer in defense department'

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With 2 million dollars lying around, the US Air Force could have bought just under 15 Humvees, or built a super computer made of PlayStation 3s. They made the right choice. The %26lsquo;Condor Cluster%26rsquo; is the USAF%26rsquo;s newest supercomputer, and is comprised of 168 separate graphical processing units, 84 coordinating servers and 1760 PlayStation 3s.

The system, located in Rome, New York, will be tasked as a research computer by Air Force branches and centers nation-wide. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) director of high power computing, Mark Barnell, boasts that the system costs only five to ten percent what an equivalent system built with off-the-shelf parts would cost. Not too shabby considering that the AFRL is calling the Condor Cluster the %26lsquo;fastest interactive computer in the entire Defense Department.%26rsquo; Just how fast is that, you ask? 500 trillion floating point operations per second (500 TFLOPS) fast.

Defense engineers worked directly with Sony to acquire the PS3s (the older %26lsquo;fat%26rsquo; models), avoiding the Slim as it precluded the installation of Linux as an operating system. This, of course, isn't the first super-computer to be built from consoles - the University of Illinois, for example,created a system capable of 500 billions operations per second bycombining the power of70 PS2s.

Dec 1, 2010

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