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Eight PS3 'Supercomputer' Ponders Gravity Waves

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the because-you-can dept.

Supercomputing 293

Jamie found a story about a inexpensive supercomputer being used by an astrophysicist to research gravity waves. The interesting bit is that the system is built using 8 PS3s. Since nobody is actually playing games on the system, it makes sense to use them for research projects like this, but I really wonder now what is defining 'Supercomputer'... I mean, a hundred PS3s sure, but 8? I think we are de-valuing the meaning of the word 'super' :)

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Inexpensive, eh? (5, Funny)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010471)

I mean, a hundred PS3s sure, but 8? I think we are de-valuing the meaning of the word 'super' :)
I think we are de-valuing the meaning of the word 'inexpensive' :)

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (1)

kiltyj (936758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010525)

I think we are de-valuing the meaning of the word 'inexpensive' :)
Would that really be "de-valuing," though?

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (5, Insightful)

The13thSin (1092867) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010671)

For a supercomputer that's pretty cheap. Also I find the statement in the summary that there are no games to be played on the PS3 a bit childish. The PS3 has not been out for a year yet and there are multiple great games to get for it right now and even more coming very soon. I expected more from the Taco.

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (2, Informative)

Bandman (86149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010837)

It's not just in the summary; read the article, it dishes out the abuse

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (3, Insightful)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010913)

I think that the article imples that PS3s aren't flying off the shelves as fast as Sony might like and thus are sitting in a warehouse somewhere, otherwise going unused. Even the article claims that this was done mostly because of the open platform presented by Sony and the fact that this researcher was able to get the consoles free from Sony. This is great for Sony because a sold console is money in Sony's pocket regardless of who buys it and what they do with it. If they can convince researchers to buy PS3s then it's probably a better deal than selling them to gamers. Few gamers would buy the equivalent of 7 PS3s (about $2800) worth of games and accessories. Some will, but most won't; even when they do, it's spread over the life of the console. A researcher goes and gets 8 consoles, cash up front and there's $3200 for Sony (less taxes, mfg. costs, etc).

Maybe it's jsut me, but that sounds like a pretty good deal from Sony

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (5, Interesting)

smussman (1160103) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010987)

I think that the article imples that PS3s aren't flying off the shelves as fast as Sony might like and thus are sitting in a warehouse somewhere, otherwise going unused. Even the article claims that this was done mostly because of the open platform presented by Sony and the fact that this researcher was able to get the consoles free from Sony. This is great for Sony because a sold console is money in Sony's pocket regardless of who buys it and what they do with it. If they can convince researchers to buy PS3s then it's probably a better deal than selling them to gamers. Few gamers would buy the equivalent of 7 PS3s (about $2800) worth of games and accessories. Some will, but most won't; even when they do, it's spread over the life of the console. A researcher goes and gets 8 consoles, cash up front and there's $3200 for Sony (less taxes, mfg. costs, etc).

Maybe it's jsut me, but that sounds like a pretty good deal from Sony
IIRC, Sony sells consoles at a loss, and then gets that money back over the life of the console with license fees from games. So selling 8 consoles which will not generate money from game license fees, but still having to take the loss is not a good deal for Sony.

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (-1, Redundant)

dattaway (3088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011109)

IIRC, Sony sells consoles at a loss, and then gets that money back over the life of the console with license fees from games. So selling 8 consoles which will not generate money from game license fees, but still having to take the loss is not a good deal for Sony.

Bullshit. Sony is a hardware manufacturer. They make the whole thing from end to end. They create the price and take all the profit.

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (2, Informative)

smussman (1160103) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011341)

Bullshit. Sony is a hardware manufacturer. They make the whole thing from end to end. They create the price and take all the profit.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PS3#Sales_and_pricing [wikipedia.org]
Summary of relevant parts of article:
Sony was losing at least $240 per console at launch.
With new manufacturing techniques, etc, they're losing somewhere under $100 dollars.

Either way, they're losing money.

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (2, Insightful)

tb()ne (625102) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011395)

Oh, OK. Then I guess they've just been cutting costs for fun. And Microsoft didn't lose billions of dollars on the original XBox.

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011405)

Bullshit. Sony is a hardware manufacturer. They make the whole thing from end to end. They create the price and take all the profit

Regardless, they are in fact selling the system at a loss [gamasutra.com] ...as the price of BlueRay comes down, I imagine they will start to make a profit on the hardware, but that's not currently where their money is coming from. The GP is correct, they make money off of licensing games to run on their system.

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (1)

kurzweilfreak (829276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011129)

Well wait, did the researchers get the units for free or did they buy them?

Re:Inexpensive, eh? (1)

tb()ne (625102) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011255)

If they can convince researchers to buy PS3s then it's probably a better deal than selling them to gamers.

Probably not. Sony has been selling PS3s at a loss (and probably still are). They make up the loss through games sales. Until unit production costs drop below sale price, selling units for pure research is not "a better deal" for Sony, since there are no associated game & peripheral sales to recoup their losses.

MOD STORY AS FLAMEBAIT (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010485)

Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. PS3 having "no games?" Thanks for posting that to get people riled up, CmdrTaco. Just because a console is ahead of its time doesn't mean that you should post such asinine summaries.

Re:MOD RESPONSE AS FLAMEBAIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010641)

Mod this response as flamebait. Beyond folding@home, this is a great use of the potential of these systems.

The only problem is that the results will be on Sony Memory Stick and no one will be able to read them.

Re:MOD RESPONSE AS FLAMEBAIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010999)

GP was FUNNY, not flamebait.

Re:MOD STORY AS FLAMEBAIT (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011155)

Enlighten us. Name ten PS3 exclusives that you would consider worth paying 60 dollars for.

Re:MOD STORY AS FLAMEBAIT (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011181)

Oddly enough, I thought that read 'Name ten PS3 executives that you would consider worth paying 60 dollars for.'

Re:MOD STORY AS FLAMEBAIT (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011533)

Oh, so now you need ten games? Last month everyone was crying "Name three exclusives!" Some people are just looking for things to complain about.

To be honest, the OP is flamebait: "Since nobody is actually playing games on the system."

Making a generalized statement like that is asking for trouble. Meanwhile, I happen to be enjoying my PS3 as I don't plan on buying any Microsoft product for many years to come. I can tell you however that I do have 10 games (13 if you count the PSN downloads, and probably about 20 demos). Some are not exclusive, but as I stated earlier, you won't find me buying a console that has the potential to overheat and red-ring, has "peripheral money pit" written all over it and makes it's living on Halo.

Lick my balls, Rob Malda! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21011239)

For modding parent flamebait

Obligatory (1)

theantipop (803016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010489)

It would've been cheaper to just buy a Cray.

*ducks*

Re:Obligatory (4, Interesting)

threaded (89367) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010767)

Not true. I know of at least one place where they have a Cray and can't afford the electric bill to switch it on. They cost a fortune just to sit and look pretty too: it's taking up room on campus that could be used for other things.

8 systems x 8 cores = (5, Insightful)

zifferent (656342) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010501)

64 cpu's. That seems supercomputerish enough for me.

Re:8 systems x 8 cores = (4, Funny)

andphi (899406) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010555)

Should be enough for anyone

Re:8 systems x 8 cores = (2, Funny)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010699)

The PS3 is the most powerful blue-ray player in the world. 8 PS3's makes a blue-ray player that has the power of a supercomputer.

Re:8 systems x 8 cores = (4, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010737)

64 cpu's. That seems supercomputerish enough for me.

It depends. For those problems that fit within the PS3's cramped memory, this is a supercomputer. For those problems that don't, this is a set of 8 matching doorstops.

Re:8 systems x 8 cores = (5, Informative)

Kupek (75469) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010765)

It's only six cores available to Linux per Cell processor on a PS3. One is reserved for the Game OS, and one is disabled to achieve a higher yield on fabrication. (The Game OS is always running, since Linux actually runs on top of a hypervisor.)

Re:8 systems x 8 cores = (3, Insightful)

flaming-opus (8186) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011007)

64 cores does not make a supercomputer. There are database servers with more cores than this, and have been for years. Technical computer, sure. Maybe even high performance computer. Definately NOT supercomputer. 8 systems, that's what? 4GB of RAM? There are laptops that can hold that much memory.

If you went to a technical conference like, for example, Supercomputing '07, you would get laughed off the floor calling that a supercomputer. Supercomputer is a changing definition, but I don't think I'd call anything a supercomputer that didn't have at least 1TF of peak double-precission performance, and at least 200GB of RAM.

Re:8 systems x 8 cores = (1, Informative)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011275)

It's really about pipelining massive amounts of data and calculations. While each calculation may take a noticeable finite amount of time, if each step of the calculation is lightning fast, then the average becomes lightning fast.

This is like an assembly line where it may take 8 hours to build a car, but if the longest stage of the assembly line is 30 seconds, then a car is "made" every 30 seconds as one rolls off the end.

Supercomputers try to use this many-stage pipelining for everything from reading in the data into gigantic local vector registers, then providing operands to operate on the gigantic vector of numbers as a whole, then read it back out pipelined.

A game machine makes for a good supercomputer because the I/O is designed to be fast so it can load up bitmaps quickly, and it has massive parallelism to crunch billions of numbers, all in the same way. If you can write code to take advantage of this (especially if you can split it up amongst several such game machines) bingo!

Not surprising... (2, Insightful)

grocer (718489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010521)

I believe that people were clustering PS2 for research shortly after the release of the linux kit...cheap processing power is cheap processing power.

Re:Not surprising... (2, Insightful)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010897)

I could be wrong, but isn't it actually quite expensive, because within those 8 PS3s, you're buying 8 very high end graphics (possibly integrated, but still there), which surely would bump up the price by quite a large amount, would it not have been easier to buy components?

Re:Not surprising... (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011321)

Yes and no. It is possible to use those GPUs for massively parallel computing through the use of programmable shaders. Still, I doubt they'll ever be exploited in 99% of these kinds of non-gaming applications.

Re:Not surprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010903)

I find that most of these PS3 projects are just corporate shills paid for lock, stock, and barrel by Sony. Find a professor somewhere, give him 8 PS3s and a couple interesting ideas to pursue and then promote the hell out of it to show the world how your game box is a (add echo reverb to voice) "SUPER COMPUTAH"

who gives a flying fuck if the PS3 can crunch a physics problem

Strange... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010529)

Noone has wished for a Beowulf cluster of these yet. Has the world order changed and no notification issued?

Supercomputer is a term that changes (4, Interesting)

szyzyg (7313) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010537)

Just over a decade ago the fastest computers in the world were barely breaking the teraflop mark, today in theory the XB0x and Ps3 with their multitude of cpu cores and finely tuned graphics cards can top that. So 8 Ps3's - if you believe sony's hype could clock in a >10teraflops if the hardware was well utilised.

I had a freiend who wrote a book 'Nemesis' which was a spy thriller involving a killer asteroid - it was published in the UK 1998, and back then he was talking about 'the teraflop box' as being the fastest computer in the world, unfortunaly it took 8 years to get the book released in the US and by that time a lot of the computer jargon had dated significantly, and you could get a teraflop box in the form of a turbocharged graphics card or cutting edge games console.

Re:Supercomputer is a term that changes (1)

edmudama (155475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010819)

Please mod the parent up.

The PS3 is a pretty advanced processing platform, much like today's top-end video cards, especially when working with large sets of data doing floating point math. I'm not surprised at all that it can match the performance of 200 or so pentium-grade cores. (After all, joe blow researcher doesn't get time on one of those top-5 boxes when he signs his check for $5k.... he gets yesterday's tech)

NVIDIA's next graphics card will do a teraflop... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010857)

The teraflop won't be usable for general computing (not even close) but if you add up all the little floating point units on the chip you'll get a teraflop.

Re:NVIDIA's next graphics card will do a teraflop. (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011251)

And that's why flop performance is usually reported for a very specific matrix opperation. The other one is called the theoretical speed and nobody cares about it.

Re:Supercomputer is a term that changes (1)

BestNicksRTaken (582194) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010925)

its funny, i was perfectly content reading a book the other day, it didn't seem dated - i didn't notice the publication date.

then they mentionned 486's, and it all just went to hell. quick look inside the cover confirmed first published 1996 or something.

Devalued super (3, Insightful)

Teese (89081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010545)

I think we are de-valuing the meaning of the word 'super'
I'm pretty sure we devalued super when the PowerMac G4 [youtube.com] was claimed as a supercomputer all by its lonesome.

Super is a relative term, what was a super computer is now a computer that I hand-me-downed to my mom so she could check her email and browse the web.

Re:Devalued super (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010667)

it's not a super computer but the UI looks ok.

Supacomputa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010707)

It's a supacomputa!

G4 was a supercomputer ... at the time. (3, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011005)

It met the government's definition of super computer at the time. (1.5Gflops ... well, technically, 1500MTOPS).

The designation is part of the "Dual-Use" restrictions on exports (basically, things which could be used for both military and non-military applications).

The 1Gflop threshold was set as the necessary processing power to calculate balistic trajectories for missile systems.

I can't find the documentation, but my understanding is that the current threshold is 190Gflop (since Jan 2002).

Mystery solved (5, Funny)

eaglesnax (238705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010581)

Now we know who bought all the PS3s!

devaluing super (3, Insightful)

mihalis (28146) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010607)

Well the guy used to use a 200-node parallel supercomputer, but now he prefers to use 8 PS3s. That to me proves that 8 PS3s is like a supercomputer TO HIM.

I'm sure there are faster setups available if had the money, but 100% of 8 PS3s indefinitely is preferable, from what he says, to the costly little slices of "real" supercomputers he tried to rent before.

I wonder if Sony could offer a "HPC PSP3" which provided a stripped down processor board without the shiny case, graphics memory etc. It would be interesting if the Cell processor could get better economies of scale.

Re:devaluing super (3, Insightful)

TargetBoy (322020) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010665)

Wouldn't it rather be IBM that might offer this, since they actually make the cell?

Re:devaluing super (3, Informative)

mihalis (28146) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011425)

Wouldn't it rather be IBM that might offer this, since they actually make the cell?

Yes, actually I think you are correct. If I recall correctly it's Sony, IBM and Toshiba in the cell consortium, and the most ovious vendor of a "compute-node Cell module" would indeed be IBM, not Sony, good point.

By the way, I had a typo, it would not be an "HPC PSP3" of course, the Cell is way too hot and power hungry! Although ... of course with sufficient shrinks and price reductions the current Cell might well one day be in a portable game console. Then we could have another round of speculation on personal clusters. I love the "wheel of reincarnation" in digital technology!

Re:devaluing super (1)

akb (39826) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010973)

Even more impressive is the monetary savings he achieved. The 8 PS3's cost less than even one of the 200 nodes he was using. That's a 99.5 percent reduction in cost without even considering power, cooling and networking.

Re:devaluing super (2, Informative)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011245)

You mean like this? [ibm.com]

Sony's gonna love that statement. (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010615)

Since nobody is actually playing games on the system

Ouch!

Clearly (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010617)

You haven't read the Sony press releases about how powerful the PS3 cell processor is.

Re:Clearly (1)

Corwn of Amber (802933) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011101)

Have you read the technical explanation of what the Cell processor was supposed to be at first? Their processing power has been cut in half several times so as not to gobble up IUBM's supercomputer market.

There was an article here some day that reported, some researcher(s?) had connected a number of PS3s (or wsa it just Cells, can't remember) together to compare them with supercomputers, the Cells beat them by an order of magnitude on computing power per $.

Now if they'd just activate the eighth core and make them hold ints of eight bytes, we could happily throw away every computer that doesn't have a Cell in it...

Sony's marketing target (1)

damaki (997243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010647)

Let's add the supercomputer possibilities to those blurry and widely underused (or doomed to become underused) features such as DVR, blu ray, backward compatibility and computer likeness. Oh wait... grid computing was already done. Nevermind, they will surely find something else to add to the PS3 soup.

Uhm? (2, Interesting)

gspawn (703815) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010659)

Didn't Sony try to claim one single PS3 was a "supercomputer" in the run-up to launch?

Defining "super" (2, Interesting)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010689)

How do we define a 'super' computer?
Is it simply FlOps? Then at some point, every computer will be a super computer unless you scale the amount of operations with the speed of computers
Is it the 'classical' image of a huge room of boxes chugging away? Then as individual computers get faster and smaller, these rooms will be filled with more computing power as time goes on.
What about parallel processors? The PS3 has some form of parallel processing capability as I understand, so linking eight together isn't just 8 parallel processes it's 8*(parallel processes in one PS3)

Since some 'super' computers of ages past have less power than some modern desktops, I think that the first is more likely if you scale the threshold of a 'super' computer, e.g. the fastest 1-2% of computers out there. More generally, I think that most people conveice of a super computer being any computer system that can perform tasks that would take an unreasonable amount of time on a single, off-the-shelf machine.

Re:Defining "super" (1)

seriesrover (867969) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011413)

You're right, its not about absolute values in [Tera]FLOPS since the 'super computer' of yester-year is always overtaken by the desktop of yester-month. I personally wouldn't give it close to 1-2% - I think of it more towards the fastest 100 computers in existance, owned by government instituitions and a few select universities.

Re:Defining "super" (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011565)

"...people conceive of a super computer being any computer system that can perform tasks that would take an unreasonable amount of time on a single, off-the-shelf machine." Like booting Vista?

Losing Money (1)

Gay for Linux (942545) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010691)

Sony's taking a loss on the console and expects to make it up when someone buys software. For every researcher that buys a PS3, Sony loses a lot of money, since that person won't buy software to help Sony make up the difference.

Research: helping to bankrupt SCE.

Works for me! (2, Interesting)

HartDev (1155203) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010719)

I think that having multiple game consoles hooked up in a way to do mass amounts of scientific computations is very super, think about, those consoles are designed to crank out so much mathematical data for graphics and game terrain simulation that all output to the gamer flawlessly! Heck I would cluster xbox's if the memory wasn't so small and other problems (talking of the first xbox not the 360), I wouldn't touch a PS3 if I wasn't gonna slap some Linux on it and run it as a computer.

Eight of them in one spot? (1)

filterban (916724) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010729)

If I play my PS3 for any length of time, the entertainment center becomes an oven hot enough to broil a steak. I'm having trouble comprehending what eight of them would do running intensive math calculations. *shudder*

In a data center, the PS3 would be acceptable. I just can't imagine anyone making a rack mount enclosure for the PS3. :)

Research grant? (3, Funny)

threaded (89367) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010807)

Maybe his research grant doesn't stretch as far as heating the office. Win-win situation in that case.

Ob. Simpsons quote (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011403)

I'm having trouble comprehending what eight of them would do running intensive math calculations.

Moe: This thing can flash fry a buffalo in 30 seconds.

sigh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010743)

So CmdrTaco is a fanboy hunh? How lame.

Re:sigh (0, Offtopic)

kiltyj (936758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011039)

Are you saying he's an xbot [urbandictionary.com] or a wiitard [urbandictionary.com] ?

Nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010769)

But I bet it still does not run Vista.

"We Report. We Decide." (3, Informative)

Intellectual Elitist (706889) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010829)

> Since nobody is actually playing games on the system

You can always count on Slashdot for a fair and balanced presentation of information.

Funny that I've bought 4 disc-based games and at least one downloadable game since the beginning of July, and have been using my PS3 almost exclusively for gaming since then. I'll be buying at least 4 more games before the end of the year, too.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the PS3 game drought has been over for a while now...

Re:"We Report. We Decide." (1)

BestNicksRTaken (582194) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011017)

i think he means nobody is playing games on this particular system (of 8 ps3's) not that nobody plays games on the ps3 in general.

how can so many people have misinterpreted that?

Re:"We Report. We Decide." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21011079)

Hmmm, perhaps because it is NOT clearly stated. Hell, your "interpretation" could just as easily be wrong.

Re:"We Report. We Decide." (2, Insightful)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011143)

Yeah, but in this case it's not /. doing the PS3 bashing, it's the actual article from Wired instead, just look at the first sentence

"Suffering from its exorbitant price point and a dearth of titles, Sony's PlayStation 3 isn't exactly the most popular gaming platform on the block."

Looks like /. isn't the only PS3 hating news source out there eh :P

Re:"We Report. We Decide." (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011191)

Question: why do you read Slashdot.

Re:"We Report. We Decide." (1)

Shaterri (253660) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011359)

There may be games out on the system -- and I'm a huge fan of PSN, easily the most appealing feature of the system right now, with a much more interesting selection than XBLA -- but it seems fair to say that nobody's playing it. There are all of two PS3 games in the top 20 on this week's estimated games sales charts [vgchartz.com] (yes, US only), and they're 16th and 20th. Last week there were also only two games in the top 20, both ports of NBA titles that did less than half what the 360 versions did. Weekly hardware sales at this point are still running behind the PS2, nevermind the other next-gen consoles. There may still be hope on the horizon, but saying that people aren't buying PS3s or PS3 games in any real volume is still a matter of fact more than it is an opinion.

Re:"We Report. We Decide." (2, Insightful)

Fross (83754) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011427)

8 games? Yikes, either you play *everything* or you've got some real crud in there. Care to elaborate? (I hope one of them isn't Lair ;) )

To give an idea, the top 8 games on PS3 get metacritic scores of 85 or more ( http://www.metacritic.com/games/ps3/scores/ [metacritic.com] ). Only one of those is over 90.

To compare, the 360 has *27* games at 85 or more ( http://www.metacritic.com/games/xbox360/scores/ [metacritic.com] ) 9 of which rate 90 or more.

For me, of those 8 games I'd be interested in 4, 2 of which are also available on PC.

I'm glad you're enjoying your PS3 for gaming (hell, competition is what keeps things improving) but the general sentiment is the PS3 needs a killer app (like a halo, gears of war, or some other really good exclusive title) to make it worth getting.

Memory limitations (3, Interesting)

Kupek (75469) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010845)

I'd like to know more details about his code, because a PS3 only has 256MB of RAM. That's a serious performance obstacle, since most high performance applications that do anything interesting need much more than that. I know it's a problem our group has had, and we've heard the same from others.

Re:Memory limitations (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010927)

That's main RAM. The individual cell processors only have 256kb each (IIRC) for holding their data.

Re:Memory limitations (1)

Kupek (75469) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010997)

No, each SPE has 256kb of local storage. In general, a Cell processor has 8 of them, but in the PS3 only 6 are usable. But that has nothing to do with my main point; the 256k of local storage for each SPE is a problem, but you can code around it. (It's not trivial, but it can be done.) You can't code around having a small amount of RAM and still maintain high performance.

Re:Memory limitations (3, Insightful)

chrysrobyn (106763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011267)

256k of local storage for each SPE is a problem, but you can code around it. (It's not trivial, but it can be done.) You can't code around having a small amount of RAM and still maintain high performance.

Let me see if I get this straight, you can imagine a piece of code that doesn't mind churning on itself within 256KB, but you can't imagine having to keep 256MB of main memory fed from a network or disk? In my experience, any piece of code that can both benefit from extreme parallelism and fit both the code and enough data to be worth working on within 256KB can handle a few reads from a disk or the network once in a while. If it can't, then 256KB of memory isn't enough to keep the (sub)processor fed, and you need a machine with more on-die memory (many of which can be found).

Cell is very good at integers and single precision floats for workloads that are parallelizable and fit within 256KB. If you stray from any of that, there are plenty of interesting competitors.

Re:Memory limitations (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011367)

You can if you need to do to a lot of calculations involving a small amount of data. (So that it all fits in RAM, or at least you can batch large portions of it into RAM at a time for extended periods.)

Re:Memory limitations (1)

gspawn (703815) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010969)

For a lot of super-computing applications, I thought ram was *relatively* less of an issue- the PS3's supposed to have all of its muscle in the Cell, so you could theoretically rely on more processor-intensive but RAM-friendly means, like maybe compression? I just realized I don't know if I really know what I'm talking about though. And I'll admit it!

Re:Memory limitations (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011547)

Looking at it you'll learn that he really only uses one processing unit on one PS3. But the only way to get enough memory was to network 8 PS3s.

This one goes to 11... (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010863)

I can't think of anything clever to say other than the subject, though...

Knocking off Knock-off Nigel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010911)

He's the sort of man who is always on the take
Sells for nearly a score, what cost pennies to make
He'll invite you to his home, and then charge you for tea
Then charge you for the toilet when you have to go pee
He's a Rip-off Robert, he's a Rip-off Robert
Rip-off Robert, sells over-priced DVDs!

Why not? (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010915)

My old xbox is now a media centre, so why not use a set of consoles for data crunching. It's all just math and these things are optimized for it.

umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21010923)

You people DO realize that when they say "nobody is going to be playing games on the system", they DON'T mean all PS3's in general, but are referring to the fact that these PARTICULAR systems are going to be used for science. Look at the context: it's saying that the government is reluctant to give out grants for "game" systems, regardless of the potential uses.

How about we all stop flying off the handle at what we suspect may possibly be a cheap shot, and actually READ the article for once (oh, right, this is Slashdot, never mind).

Captcha: overdone (how appropriate...)

Apple's G4 Campaign (1, Redundant)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010957)

I think we are de-valuing the meaning of the word 'super' :)
I believe it was originally Apple who brought on the devaluing of the word "super" with their "The PowerMac G4 is more powerful than a Super Computer" campaign. Sure it is - your 1999 desktop computer is more powerful than ... a super computer from 1983. Congratulations! You're only 16 years late.

Devalue? (0, Offtopic)

Facetious (710885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21010963)

I think we are de-valuing the meaning of the word 'super'
Bah. We devalued that term long ago with the invention of the "super model." Seriously, when was the last time you saw some skinny chick flying around saving people from burning buildings?

Only 256 Megs of RAM (1, Informative)

hweimer (709734) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011015)

The CPU power of the PS3 is indeed very impressive, however, for most real-world supercomputing tasks the 256 MB RAM per node are way too low. One Gig per core should be the minimum, meaning you would have to increase the amount of RAM in the PS3 by a factor of 24.

Personal Supercompter? (1)

niko9 (315647) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011035)

When do i get the cell on a standard ATX form factor with an open BIOS for personla Linux home use?

Any plans for that?

Re:Personal Supercompter? (2, Informative)

for_usenet (550217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011363)

Check out Mercury [mc.com] systems. These aren't exactly for home use, but they are shipping Cell + Linux computer systems. However, given the economics, it might just be better to go with a PS3, if you can live with the memory limitations. There may be other companies, but checking at TerraSoft [terrasoftsolutions.com] (one vendor for PowerPC Linux software and hardware) takes you right back to IBM and Mercury hardware.

I hate troll article summaries. (2, Insightful)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011065)

Disclaimer: I hate the PS3 (though I love the cell, but not for gaming, because that's too complicated for most game programmers to handle). I love my XBox 360 and Wii (as long as they both continue to function and don't break).

Since nobody is actually playing games on the system, it makes sense to use them for research projects like this

Yes, because ~4 million people count as "nobody". But seriously, am I the only one that's tired of troll article summaries around here? It's either a flippant comment like that, or some asinine, leading question at the end, like "Could [people who are professionals and therefore have a clue unlike submitter who only skimmed the article in question] finally be getting it right?"

Slashdot is where i go for excellent commentary - I've tried reading comments on sites like digg or reddit, and neither can compete with whatever strange and wonderful force it is that guarantees at least some highly-moderated comments on this site are really worth reading (often moreso than the article, which is probably why no one reads it anyways). But now that we have firehose, etc, I say we should start punishing stories early for this kind of trolling, tag them as such, and maybe even put up some prepublication commentary on it. I've only submitted a few articles, but I know that, despite popular belief, the editors *do* edit what is written, and maybe, just maybe, we can reduce this annoyance.

Of course I know there are many more important problems in the world than the submitter being an ass, but this is one I can do something about - and so can you.

Why Sony failed... (0, Offtopic)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011073)

I think Sony's failure, among other things, was due to dropping PS2 compatibility. I mean, why buy a PS2 slim when you can buy a PS3 for twice the price? No, thrice... wait... four times - no, make that five...

OK. Make that backwards compatibility, AND the price... AND the wiimote.

Dude, back in my grandad's day.... (1)

Zorbane (1095631) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011075)

the ability to leap over tall buildings in a single bound is what it took.... ...now that's super, man Also, I am curious, is there some boundary that delimits super vs not? I mean, the term super is always relative to what is common, but where does on place such an arbitrary boundary.

SuperComputer Z (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21011111)

If 8 PS3s is a Super Computer, then 64 PS3s is a Super Computer II and 4,096 PS3s is a Super Computer III?

(PS - the latest /. interface update really SuperSucks IV)

Definition of a Super Computer? (2, Informative)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011165)

Looking at this page:

    http://www.answers.com/topic/supercomputer?cat=biz-fin [answers.com]

they define a 'supercomputer' as being "A mainframe computer that is among the largest, fastest, or most powerful of those available at a given time". This is suitably vague, since the point of reference changes all the time. On the other hand there is no point of reference in the definition. For example, does it have to be in the top 100 or 100x more powerful than the current top of the line PC? Without a suitable reference point anyone could call their cluster amongst, the "largest, fastest or most powerful".

supercomputer: highest magnitude of speed (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011171)

That is 50 to 500 teraflops in 2007. Everything else is a "last generation" supercomputer and marketing noise. My cell phone is as fast and has as much memory as a 1970s Cray supercomputer (60 MFlops).

Beats an Intel 64-bit Processor (1)

cusco (717999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011175)

I remember being annoyed by the big hoopla surrounding the (year and a half late) release of Intel's 64-bit processor. After all, DEC had a 64-bit Alpha processor for years (until Compaq shut down production), and the Nintendo 64 had been out for something like two years. Game consoles were using multiple cores running multiple threads each in a 64-bit environment for years before Intel or even AMD got around doing it, and they're still doing it better than either one.

1.2 TFlops (4, Informative)

rockmuelle (575982) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011201)

8 PS3s gives you 1.2 teraflops of single-precision performance or a similar number if you stick to integer operations (6 SPUs/PS3 gives ~150 GFlops). 1.2 teraflops is a supercomputer in my book.

Using Jack Dongerra's single-precision algorithms that do half the work in single and the other half in double precision, you can maintain a high level of performance and precision. And, the unique architecture of the Cell opens up some interesting algorithmic research issues, allowing scientists to publish twice for the same work: once for the science results, once for the computer science results. :)

On the flip side, the Gigabit ethernet on the PS3s isn't really 1GB - the PPU can barely keep up. So, extra care must be taken around communication points. And, a similar Intel/AMD-based rack would run about $20k and is much easier to develop for, so if your labor is expensive (i.e., you're not in academia), PS3 clusters may not make much sense.

-Chris

Supercomputer ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011379)

but I really wonder now what is defining 'Supercomputer'... I mean, a hundred PS3s sure, but 8? I think we are de-valuing the meaning of the word 'super' :)

Well, I don't know what qualifies as a supercomputer nowadays ...

But, to some of us, any computer made in the last decade at one point would have qualified as a supercomputer. I seem to recall any machine which had > 1GHz of CPU speed used to be classified as munitions grade equipment and illegal for export. Something to do with being able to design the Trident missile or some such.

I remember machines being in the low-two digit MHz machines were considered to be big honking machines. I remember PC magazine in the very early 90's saying that nobody but the most power hungry corporate servers would ever require the (then new) 486-DX266 machines which screamed along at 66MHz. Heck, I remember machines in the single-digit MHz range being all the rage (4.77 MHz without turbo, which came later). The machine I first coded on had 16K of RAM -- that KILO bytes. :-P

Sigh. It never ceases to amaze me that computers have gotten 3-4 orders of magnitude bigger in all respects in just around 20 years. Boy, do I feel old now. :-P

Young whipper-snappers -- get off my lawn!

Cheers

how many ps3s would it take to... (1)

steak (145650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011475)

how many ps3s would it take to make it onto the top500 list?

US gov export restrictions (1)

pokerdad (1124121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21011587)

I wonder if the US governments' restrictions on exporting super computers covers game consoles as well. If it does the Xbox 360 is most certainly restricted.

(not that it is really a super computer, but if you have ever had to deal with said restrictions you know that 10 year old desktops are considered supercomputers by the US gov)

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