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US Air Force Buying Another 2,200 PS3s

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the quick-who-knows-a-good-ps3-flight-sim dept.

PlayStation (Games) 144

bleedingpegasus sends word that the US Air Force will be grabbing up 2,200 new PlayStation 3 consoles for research into supercomputing. They already have a cluster made from 336 of the old-style (non-Slim) consoles, which they've used for a variety of purposes, including "processing multiple radar images into higher resolution composite images (known as synthetic aperture radar image formation), high-def video processing, and 'neuromorphic computing.'" According to the Justification Review Document (DOC), "Once the hardware configuration is implemented, software code will be developed in-house for cluster implementation utilizing a Linux-based operating software."

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144 comments

Wow (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30223914)

Maybe someone should tell them the new ones don't run Linux.

Re:Wow (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224050)

Pretty sure the link in the OP should say 'grabbing up 2,200 *more* PlayStation 3 consoles', not new as in slim. Nowhere in TFA does it say they'll be buying 'new' PS3s.

Re:Wow (3, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226150)

So. Just in time for Xmas. The Airforce of the United States is depriving children of consoles at the peak of season?

That's 2,200 children who will wake up, sad and dissapointed - with a boxing day that brings only an electric train set, or an iPod touch.

I weep for the dead children in Afghanistan and the empty stockings of children on the American home front.

Re:Wow (2, Funny)

shivamib (1034310) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224068)

So much for a Beowulf cluster, then.

Re:Wow (5, Funny)

TheDarAve (513675) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224518)

Its the Air Force, it'd be an Airwolf cluster.

Re:Wow (1)

The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224816)

More like an Airwolf Cluster Bomb.

Re:Wow (1)

Aklyon (1398879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225834)

No, an Airwolf Nuke.

Re:Wow (3, Funny)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224168)

They already know they don't run Linux, they just to play Uncharted 2 and Demon's Souls.

Re:Wow (2, Informative)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224266)

That's a genuinely good point, I wonder if Sony would help them out on this or if they are getting the old one or what?
I don't have much of a use for linux on mine TBH, it was far too goddamn slow (and I'm no linux guru) it really does need 1gb or more of ram, then she'd be fine.
That being said, sucks for researchers who wanted this.

Re:Wow (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224632)

I think they want some of these [ibm.com] really.

Well, I wouldn't mind one or two to play with.

(For those not interested in following the link, it's a blade style pizza-box server with dual (next-gen)Cell and up to 32GB of RAM)

Re:Wow (1)

jargon82 (996613) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225384)

it's not a pizza box at all, it is an actual blade server and requires a bladecenter... specifically a BladeCenter H, HT or S. With the H, you can get 14 of these babies in 9U of rack space, though. Make sure your cooling is up to the task!

Re:Wow (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225502)

That's what I was thinking, WTF are they buying PS3's with all the associated gaming hardware when the QS22 blades offer better MIPS/watt and MIPS/dollar when you are buying at those kinds of quantity.

Re:Wow (1)

jpcarter (1098791) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225766)

Oh Christ, don't tell PizzaAnalogyGuy [slashdot.org] !

Re:Wow (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224320)

My read on it is that the PS3 does not present a "boot other OS" option. That is different than "does not run Linux"

Not much stopping them really (3, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224402)

This is the US Government we're talking about. One of the few entities on the planet where "Budget" is virtually meaningless. Someone sneezes funny and a million dollars goes out the door. How much do you think it'd cost to financially compel Sony to enabling Linux installs on their machines? Exactly how much does a PS3 dev-kit license cost again? How hard to do you think it'd be to get a judge to sign some order compelling Sony to releasing the schematics to the US Government under NDA, so that they can write and maintain their own Linux loader for the machine?

Even if the cost of the above was in the lower 8-digit range without the machines included, which I really doubt, it'd likely be cheaper to source these machines than it would be to develop your own hybrid compute node and software for it (or nVidia's crazy-expensive, less mature solution).

Sony doesn't support Linux on these machines, which makes it practically impossible for the home user to boot Linux on them. (Well, tbh, 'improbable', look at how much reverse engineering has happened with the GameCube & Wii). But for someone with deep enough pockets, like say a government agency, it's almost trivial.

Re:Not much stopping them really (2, Insightful)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225078)

Sony is not an American company, but I'm sure they were more than happy offer up a boot loader considering how big a customer the the US government could become if they were given a little courtesy. I doubt the would have to resort to threats.

As to the budget, it is not meaningless. They can be shut down without a proper budget, unless you missed the California meltdown, and all of the drama when it came to funding our troops. Budget and government are always very real hurdles.

I think it's more likely that someone at Sony saw the potential for a very large customer and supplied it without the need for any threats.

Federal Govt Shutdown Is Highly Unlikely (2, Interesting)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225406)

They can be shut down without a proper budget, unless you missed the California meltdown, and all of the drama when it came to funding our troops. Budget and government are always very real hurdles.

You're talking about the federal government and, technically, you're right. About every decade-and-a-half or so, Congress gets the budget so fouled up that the President refuses to sign a continuing order to keep the government working. At that point, the government technically stops. All non-essential personnel are let go. It's happened twice during my 27 years with the government.

However, I don't think it'll ever happen again.

Statutorily, to do a shutdown, all employees must receive notice in person and in writing. If the fed is going to shut down tomorrow, every single employee gets contacted today and told to be at the office in the morning to receive their formal notice. The law requires it.

That means that every single Special Agent on stakeout is pulled off of surveillance to come to the office to get their letter. Every Special Officer, Revenue Officer, every sort of officer, agent, analyst, tech, etc., ad infinitum must all show up at the main office at the same time.

The fed employs a huge percentage of people who actually visit their office in the downtown federal building (wherever that may be in your city) just once or twice a year. But at budget shutdown time, they're all there. The halls are packed with people because there's just not enough room for them to all sit down.

Keep in mind that this in-person notification, with everyone at the same place at the same time, is an absolute statutory requirement.

Now, in this post 9/11 USA, who'd be crazy enough to do this? Any half-assed attempt at setting off a bomb or flying a plane into a building would, at about 8:30 on the morning of a shutdown, kill more badge-toting feds than any normal-day method I can conceive short of a nuclear option.

I really don't think the feds will ever shut down again. Seriously. It's just too crazy to contemplate these days. The last time it happened was well before 9/11 and plenty of people in the government, even during those relaxed times, commented on what a huge and idiotic security risk it was. I sincerely doubt we'll ever do it again.

Re:Federal Govt Shutdown Is Highly Unlikely (1)

psm321 (450181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225668)

Umm, statutes can be changed.

Re:Federal Govt Shutdown Is Highly Unlikely (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226028)

Yes, statutes can be changed.

But, in this extraordinary case, that would be asking a lot. Clearly, people must get a formal notification that they're out of a job. The fed doesn't yet fire people by IM or email.

Changing this would require not just changing the statute but a sea-change in mindset across the federal government.

It's possible, of course; I just don't think it could get done during the run-up to the next budget crisis.

Re:Not much stopping them really (2, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225520)

If the budget really isn't in question, wouldn't they be looking into the blade server version of the cell processor, you know, the one that powers a good many of the supercomputers on the top500 list? As it is, this is PURELY a budget decision. Playstation 3 units at $300 per cpu node beats the HELL out of $1000-2000 or more per node for the conventional computing version. Add to that the fact that Sony still takes a loss on every PS3 unit that goes out the door, meaning it's basically a Sony subsidized supercomputer for a fraction of what a legit one would cost. This is nothing more than a well publicized exercise in unconventional supercomputing on a shoestring. Hats off to the Air Force, I for one am looking forward to some nice pictures of row after row of glimmering black PS3s with heat ripples coming off of them.

Budget? We don't need no stinking budget. (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225694)

This is the US Government we're talking about. One of the few entities on the planet where "Budget" is virtually meaningless. Someone sneezes funny and a million dollars goes out the door.

I'm a GS-12, I just sneezed funny. It was one of those "choo choo choo choo CHEEEEEEEEEEEEEESE" kind of sneazes. My boss, a GS-14 has put me in for a merit increase, I've been given 25 days of basket leave, and my budget for my new project was just doubled. Quick figuring...yes, a million dollars. I thank you for your tax dollars.

Seriously, if I may, I understand the power of the PS3 and its specialized abilities, but couldn't this be accomplished using more traditional lash ups?

I guess what I'm asking, did someone start this out as a "gee, I've 150 extra PS3's that DHS turned over to us from a mob bust, what can we do with them" kind of a project? Did it snowball?

Re:Wow (1)

Falcon4 (946292) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224468)

They _will_ find a way. There's nothing the Air Force can't do. And that's not even including the "anything" that the US military can't do, either. With that many PS3's on their bill, paying a few hired-hacker Air Force guys to crack it open wouldn't be too hard.

Then, they'll bring that capability to the masses as another "lol codmw2 suxx on pc give us DS" Airman drops the hack code onto the internet and everyone with a Slim benefits.

Anything can run Linux. But the real feat would be seeing it run Windows! [/obvious]

Re:Wow (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225098)

Then, they'll bring that capability to the masses as another "lol codmw2 suxx on pc give us DS" Airman

They want a DS port of codmw2?!

Hmmm.... I'd buy that!

Re:Wow (3, Funny)

TheDarAve (513675) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224544)

I just had a scary thought of instead of using linux, they just program a "UAV flight game" and leave them in various Air Force recreation centers.

Re:Wow (3, Funny)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224964)

Ala Last Starfighter?

The air force can get around that or they can get (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225252)

The air force can get around that or they can get Sony to unlock that as well as giving them full gpu power as well.

Re:Wow (1)

PsyciatricHelp (951182) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225346)

What no legal action. Companies get pissed when we the users change hardware we buy to better suite our needs. I wonder if anyone will go after them for modding their devices. I want to hear no more complaints about modded devices such as my jailbroken iPhone. On another note thats such a waste of 2500 Blue ray drives.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225666)

And if they are dropping 600k on something they couldnt spring for something like say a couple of dev kits? I seriously doubt the air force is going to buy that type of dev structure without some sort of 'major contract' behind it for support.

The military just doesnt work that way... This is not a one off hack. They have a goal in mind with it.

Re:Wow (1)

pky666 (1675924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225700)

It says right in the summary above that they are purchasing old style (non-slim) PS3's.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225994)

Maybe they are not buying new ones. I would guess a group the size of the Air Force could troll Craiglist for all the PS3s (only used one time!) they could ever want.

Interesting (1)

James_Duncan8181 (588316) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223942)

Does this mean that they'll be running Linux on the Slim?

Re:Interesting (1)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223998)

Does this mean that they'll be running Linux on the Slim?
Neither TFA nor the justification document says explicitly whether they are buying slim or original, but I get the impression that they will be using the original (non-slim) PS3s.

eBay (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225612)

The non-slim PS3 is discontinued. Did the justification document say the government was buying from a distributor of new Sony product or from the secondhand market [ebay.com] ?

Loss for Sony? (5, Insightful)

SlothDead (1251206) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223948)

Since Sony's strategy (like Microsoft's) is to sell the consoles below production costs and make money on the games I guess that they are now pretty angry about organizations buying PS3s solely for computing...

Re:Loss for Sony? (4, Insightful)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224032)

This is only true for the start of a console cycle. By this point, Sony and MS should at worst be breaking even on console sales and probably having a bit of profit. Component prices fall dramatically over the course of the typical 5-year console cycle.

Re:Loss for Sony? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224734)

As do the console prices.

The PlayStation 2 didn't start turning a profit until the PlayStation 3 was already out.

Re:Loss for Sony? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225010)

The PS2 hardware became profitable at the point they integrated the EE and GS into once chip. That was long before the PS3.

Re:Loss for Sony? (1)

cpscotti (1032676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224040)

OTOH, 2,200 consoles are really not a big issue for Sony and this really goes off as a GOOD publicity campaign!
Like those kids discussing at the school:
Harold: "My console is better than yours coz cheaters/modders can't play live!!"
Kumar: "No! mine is better!! It is so much more powerful that the air force is using fields of those to kill the 'bad' guys!!"

Re:Loss for Sony? (1)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224152)

Not only is this good publicity for Sony, but it boosts their sales numbers which makes the PS3 more attractive for planners at game dev houses scoping out which projects should target which consoles. That is small cash for big returns, as I'm guessing at this point Microsoft and Sony are far more concerned at winning game deals from each other than selling a few extra finished games.

Re:Loss for Sony? (1)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224306)

I was wondering why they buy Japanese and not American hardware, thanks for providing this explanation.

Re:Loss for Sony? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224520)

Because XNA performance on a 360 is not even in the same ballpark ?

Re:Loss for Sony? (1, Interesting)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224592)

Except that Sony is not selling them below production costs. It costs them about $250 apiece to produce.

Also, if Sony wanted to be angry, "now" is too late already, because the Pande Group (home and founders of Folding@Home) has bought thousands of PS3s for running their protein folding algorithms.

Re:Loss for Sony? (2, Interesting)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225106)

[Citation Needed] "Except that Sony is not selling them below production costs. It costs them about $250 apiece to produce."

Re:Loss for Sony? (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225714)

[Citation Needed]

Some dude on /. wrote this [slashdot.org] .

Re:Loss for Sony? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225720)

Fuck, is this Wikipedia? Can't you people use Google? "sony ps3 production cost" gives me this [escapistmagazine.com] as the fourth link with the... Wikipedia page on the PS3 being the first link.

Re:Loss for Sony? (2, Insightful)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226096)

And yet not one of these Links is based in fact. They are all best guesses.

Just because something sounds good doesn't make it fact.

The FACT is that Sony doesn't release their Production costs and never has. They could be getting substantial savings in bulk (or not). Quoting someones best guess isn't good enough and shouldn't be presented as fact.

Re:Loss for Sony? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30226360)

use the fucking internet.

http://www.google.com/search?q=ps3+production+cost
from link 1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation_3#Sales_and_production_costs
"As of January 2008, each unit cost around $400 to manufacture;[217][218] by August 2009, Sony had reduced costs by a total of 70%, yielding about $250 per unit.[219][220][221]"
with cites
http://gamersyndrome.com/ps3/ps3-cheaper-make/
http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3175396
http://kotaku.com/5327066/sony-ps3-manufacturing-costs-down-70-percent

Re:Loss for Sony? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224626)

Since Sony's strategy (like Microsoft's) is to sell the consoles below production costs and make money on the games I guess that they are now pretty angry about organizations buying PS3s solely for computing...

Ahhh, but Sony sold them at government rates [thefreelibrary.com] .

Re:Loss for Sony? (1)

plasticsquirrel (637166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224784)

It's very good publicity for the computing power of their console. It's probably better than any lame ad campaign they could do -- natural marketing. "Hey look, our game consoles are being used as a supercomputer by the most advanced military on Earth!" Then it's talked about on all the tech sites, and probably in some magazines and newspapers. That's certainly worth the bit of money they could lose.

Besides, who knows what price they're actually paying? As a previous poster pointed out, current retail PS3's can't run Linux. That means the USAF is probably special ordering them from Sony, and probably paying a higher price as a result.

In the future... (2, Interesting)

Braintrust (449843) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223958)

...processing power will be purchased in units of physical volume.

These units will be named something clever. They will come in different flavors.

They will be designed as components; primarily used to comprise a greater whole.

Re:In the future... (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224588)

(Score:®, Possibly Crazy)

Re:In the future... (1)

slipangle (859826) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225998)

Back around 1996, Pixar bought a bunch of Sun E4000 servers for their renderfarm because they had the most throughput per cubic foot.

They are actually... (1)

Anarchduke (1551707) | more than 4 years ago | (#30223972)

Setting up a wickedly awesome lan party for Bad Company 2 [ea.com] .

The harder one to explain (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224010)

were the 2,200 copies of the new Guitar Hero.

Re:The harder one to explain (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224180)

not for PsyOps

Why buy the whole PS3 (1)

mxh83 (1607017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224034)

Why do they need the whole PS3.. why don't they just buy the individual components that they need rather than wasting money on all the useless stuff like controllers etc?

Re:Why buy the whole PS3 (1)

kregg (1619907) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224102)

so they can play Final Fantasy duh

Re:Why buy the whole PS3 (2, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224172)

Because at this scale, buying mass market complete systems is much cheaper because of the economies of scale. Parts sold as spares and replacement are priced much higher than complete systems.

Getting 2.200 customer computers you mean? (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224236)

More expensive, and if you need to replace a PS3, simply go to any electronics store, replace a custom part for a custom PC...

It is cheaper and more reliable and been tested already so you know it works.

Re:Why buy the whole PS3 (1)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224322)

Because as a game console it's sold at below cost? And at least certain levels of product testing already went into it.

Re:Why buy the whole PS3 (1)

yogibaer (757010) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224332)

That's an interesting point. You do not need the blue ray drive either and a lot of other components as well (harddisk, antennas etc. see here: http://www.gamepro.com/article/features/211942/how-to-take-apart-the-ps3-slim-in-6-steps-page-2/ [gamepro.com] ) It would be a lot of work but for a system this massive it could even make sense to build a custom frame for the mainboards only (power consumption? Cooling? Space?) and use some kind of flash drive for the OS. Buying just the mainboards could make sense, I guess.

Re:Why buy the whole PS3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224362)

They're buying them directly from sony. Most likely they won't have any extra controllers or even blue ray drives.

Re:Why buy the whole PS3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224822)

Why doesn't every large company build their own PCs?

Cell processor (2, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224054)

We keep hearing these stories, and the reason is that the Cell processor is awesome for this type of work.

Are we still at the point where we can't get hold of Cell processors for machines specifically designed for this sort of task? Isn't the PS3 a rather inefficient way of doing this rather than a purpose built system or grid of systems, or does it come down to cost in that a purpose built system would just cost far more than a bunch of PS3s? 2200 PS3s is still going to cost, what, half a million?

Presumably it's not because they use the GPU as well because AFAIK Linux on the PS3 doesn't allow access to use the graphics card, or are they getting custom PS3s?

There does certainly seem a big market for Cell systems so the future of Cell certainly seems promising in this respect.

Re:Cell processor (3, Informative)

huge (52607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224124)

Are we still at the point where we can't get hold of Cell processors for machines specifically designed for this sort of task?

I haven't checked the details yet, but I was told that IBM QS21 [ibm.com] is Cell based blade system

Re:Cell processor (2, Interesting)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224812)

Nearest I could to a price find on that is about $7000. That will buy more than 20 PS3's. (Although the QS21 is a more powerful machine, with 2 cell processors).

Re:Cell processor (2, Informative)

STFS (671004) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226098)

I'm not sure this data is valid still but according to http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2008/11/putting-the-ps3s-brain-to-work.ars [arstechnica.com] there is a huge difference between a PS3 and a QS21 blade in terms of price/performance... in favor of the PS3!!!

Since most academic research groups are not overly flush with cash, the authors put these results in terms that someone holding the purse strings would understand. It terms of computing power per cost, the PS3 delivers 50,000 LUPS/dollar, the super high performance IBM QS20/QS21 runs at 3500 LUPS/dollar, while a quadcore desktop machine is capable of putting out 17,000 LUPS/dollar.

However, there seems to be the issue with the memory though:

The researchers point out that LB simulations take a large amount of RAM and, when moving to a three-dimensional simulation, the amount of RAM will become very important. Since the PS3 has only 256 MB of RAM, even moderately sized 3D grids could end up being written and read into swap memory, which would be a significant performance bottleneck.

Re:Cell processor (4, Insightful)

emilper (826945) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224132)

They would buy Cell processors, but then then it would take an year and a half for the papers to be processed, six month for IBM and Dep.Def. to spec the systems, and about two years while competitors contest the order ... everything costing about 10 times as much for one half of the computing power, and would not be able to run much else besides floating point calculations.

BTW, has anybody tried DwarfFortress on a PS3 ?

 

Re:Cell processor (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224568)

AFAIK DF needs at least 512 MB of RAM, while the PS3 has only 256.

Re:Cell processor (1)

MostAwesomeDude (980382) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224622)

DF also requires patience, luck, and a penchant for dealing with elephants.

Re:Cell processor (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225444)

Dwarf Fortress is binary only and there are no PPC Linux binaries.

Re:Cell processor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225664)

Actually there is source out, which should compile just fine on PPC Linux, you just need to know where to look (the forums to be exact)

OTOH, I took a peak at the source and making DF multiprocessor functional is going to be "FUN"

Re:Cell processor (4, Insightful)

umghhh (965931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224238)

I suppose if they ordered a system designed specifically for their purpose it would cost a dozen millions more on top of this half that you mentioned and then they still had to do in house software stated in the summary. So indeed they saved some - even if you consider all the military expense a nonsense anyway it was still half a mil wasted instead of a dozen.

Re:Cell processor (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224244)

Didn't you hear? IBM have effectively killed the Cell.

End of the line for IBM's Cell
IBM has revealed that the Cell processor line is an evolutionary dead-end. Some of the ideas behind it will live on, but the Cell family itself will not
Ars Technica [arstechnica.com]

Re:Cell processor (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225772)

We keep hearing these stories, and the reason is that the Cell processor is awesome for this type of work.

I think part of the reason for developing a machine with PS/3 units is simply to see what it can do. Both to compare it to other architectures like one using the Cell processor and to figure out what sort of computing power potential adversaries would have access to.

any PS3 will do... (1)

NimbleSquirrel (587564) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224154)

The non-slim PS3s could run linux, but it was crippled you couldn't access the RSX directly. I'd say that these PS3s would be cheap slim models. At the very least, the USAF would have PS3 dev kits to let them write code that would access the RSX directly (not through some silly hypervisor). They probably even pulled a few strings and got Sony to change the PS3 system software to let them do what they want with the hardware.

Some people have said that Sony must be pissed as they lose money on each sale, but 2,200 consoles is effectively nothing to them in terms of monthly sales numbers. Sony get to move on some stock, they get a few more console sales to wave at their shareholders, and they get some good press that is worth more than the price of 2,200 consoles. In saying that, I imagine they charged the USAF full price for a PS3 dev kit or two.

Black Friday Deals! (5, Funny)

upto0013 (1144677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224232)

They should wait for Black Friday, nobody is going to fight the Air Force for a doorbuster...

Re:Black Friday Deals! (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224264)

Except the Army?

Re:Black Friday Deals! (2, Funny)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225822)

SOF got in there the night before.

Re:Black Friday Deals! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225128)

You sure about that? I've been to a few walmart doorbusters, al-qaeda terrorist are less threatening than an angry black friday mob.

Re:Black Friday Deals! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225608)

+1 Insightful?

Re:Black Friday Deals! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225660)

Or NAVY

Two Words: (1)

ThatsNotFunny (775189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224246)

Mon-tage...

Not good for the manufacturer (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224396)

These systems are basically guaranteed to not have any software sales attached to it. The USAF is paying retail price, the $300 price tag per.

I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30224408)

...US Military PS3 Slim cluster bricked after firmware update due to modding and home-brew...

neuromorphic computing (1)

EdgeyEdgey (1172665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224496)

"Neuromorphic engineering is a new interdisciplinary discipline that takes inspiration from biology, physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering to design artificial neural systems, such as vision systems, head-eye systems, auditory processors, and autonomous robots, whose physical architecture and design principles are based on those of biological nervous systems." from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuromorphic [wikipedia.org]

Anyone got any more links?

Re:neuromorphic computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225048)

I did an MEng on this back in 1995...back then we didn't have to invent new words to try to hide the fact that we were repeating other people's research and adding nothing new to the field.

Good luck with that (1)

Jewbird (596227) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224598)

I'm sure you can find eager young grad students in front of Home Depot to program it and defeat al Qaeda through sheer patriotism. Faggots.

Wow (1)

Niubi (1578987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224630)

That's a lot of Playstations. I hope they bought them cheap from someplace like DubLi.

Educate me (1)

ilitirit (873234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224700)

I don't know much anything about neuromorphic computing and synthetic aperture radar image formation etc, but wouldn't it be cheaper to use GPU's instead? Is there something about these type of computations that make the Cell a better fit? Or maybe it's that PS3s are easier to attach to the existing infrastructure?
Someone please explain.

Re:Educate me (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225562)

Take Folding@Home for example. While the GPU clients are very powerful, they are limited in the kinds of work units they can do. The PS3, however, while being less powerful is much more versatile in the kinds of work units it can do well.

Radar images? What a waste. (1)

billsayswow (1681722) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224840)

With that many PS3s hooked up into a cluster, why blow it on radar images? You could finally play the newest Dynasty Warriors game without the framerate plummeting whenever you use your Musou attack.

How are they being installed? (1)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 4 years ago | (#30224998)

I mean, where are they putting them all? Are they actually using them as PS3s (case, PSU and all), or are they ripping the motherboards out and shoving them in a rack of some kind? The former does sound like a rather romantic hack, but surely it is terribly inefficient with power requirements, cooling, cabling, etc?
 
Or do they just not care because the project was such a bargain (compared to the alternatives)?

Amazing! (2, Funny)

bytethese (1372715) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225314)

I didn't know Skynet was made of PS3's...

No kidding.. (0, Redundant)

Storchei (723338) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225414)

for research into supercomputing..

Come oon!! They're preparing a Christmas party! XD

Why don't they get some Cell CPU boards (1)

jpg5 (857745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225418)

So they need a few boards with Cell processors, some memory and probably a NIC. But instead they buy a box, that contains also a blue-ray drive, a hard drive, WiFi, Audio subsystem, Graphics acceleration, a couple of fancy dual-shock 3 controllers, etc...but...oh...yes, they get all this things they don't need with a discount. Cool! Who knows, maybe some day they can use this dual-shock 3 controllers to control their UAVs...

Re:Why don't they get some Cell CPU boards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30225744)

As someone who used the armys remote controls to control a robot... i would say hell yea to the dual shock threes... if the air force dont want em...

They're not for research... (1)

Linkiroth (952123) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225422)

...unless that research is playing Tekken 6 in the barracks.

We all assume (1)

gregthebunny (1502041) | more than 4 years ago | (#30225764)

That they're going to run Linux on them. What if they inked a deal with Sony to provide them the SDK's to make their own "games" that use 100% of the hardware capabilities? Heck, maybe they have their own private area on the PlayStation Store for distributing software to 2,200 consoles.
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