Months ago news of the Defense Department acquiring thousands of Playstation 3s to build a massive super computer started circulating. The idea seemed far fetched but with Playstation 3 boasting more processing power and storage than any other console available on the market, it at least made some sense. Today though, the Playstation super computer isn’t only real, but it is being used by the Defense Department for tasks the Playstation 3 wasn’t necessarily designed for.
The impressive supercomputer you see in the following picture comprises 1,760 Sony Playstation 3s. Those PS3s weren’t purchased at just any store though. The Defense Department worked out some sort of direct deal with Sony. I don’t think Wal-Mart carries that many anyway.
This supercomputer, which is being nicknamed the Condor Cluster, has many important purposes that don’t include playing games or watching movies. In fact, watching hi-def movies isn’t even possible now that the Blu-Ray drives have been stripped from the devices. The PS3s will allow the department to analyze high resolution images in mere seconds, a task that used to take hours. It will also allow scientists to better see objects flying in space.
As you may have noticed in the title, these 1,760 Playstation 3s makes this supercomputer the 33rd largest computer in the world. This monumental device is being kept in upstate New York. But, how does a supercomputer comprised of video game technology actually come about? Certainly there must be more advanced technology available to the Defense Department that we consumers can’t buy? Apparently, this question is answered simply by looking at cost.
This Condor Cluster was started around four years ago when Richard Linderman, a senior scientist in the advanced computer laboratory, challenged the lab to use video game technology (consoles and microchips). The Playstation 3s cost around $400 at the time while similar technology was selling at $10,000. Funny enough, the consoles the Defense Department are using aren’t the most newest model of Playstation available. But, that’s by design. Newer Playstation models have had certain capabilities the Defense Department needs removed. So, you’ll need to buy older PS3s if you want to make one of your own.
This isn’t the last we’ll see of the Defense Department using video game consoles as supercomputers. Air-Force high-performance computing director Mark Bernell says he’s looking forward to the next generation of architecture.