US Air Force builds super-computer out of PS3s

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 ‘Condor Cluster’ is the USAF’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 ‘fastest interactive computer in the entire Defense Department.’ 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 ‘fat’ 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