Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

U.S. Air Force Buying 2,200 PlayStation 3s

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 47 comments

This is real modern warfare.

Since the PlayStation 3 went cheaper, slimmer and lighter, more people have been drawn to picking one up. Interestingly, the U.S. Air Force is now looking to grab 2,200 – yes, that's right – PS3 consoles to use as part of its supercomputing cluster.

Last year, the Air Force acquired at least 300 PS3s for test purposes of the Cell Broadband Engine. The systems, now numbering at 336 PS3 units, are at Air Force Research Laboratory's information directorate in Rome, N.Y.

Now the Air Force wishes to at another 2,200 consoles to the mix, which presumably means that the initial test batch yielded pleasing results.

According to InformationWeek, the Air Force has used the PS3 cluster to stitch multiple radar images into higher resolution composite images, video processing, and building computers with brain-like properties.

After inspecting the document on the Federal Business Opportunities site, it appears that the Air Force is not interested in the new, cheaper slim model. Rather, it is after the 160 GB model (CECHP01 or 989038) that was available in limited quantities before the 120 GB slim model arrived.

Also, it's likely that the Air Force is looking to run custom networking software on the PlayStation 3 consoles, meaning that it will need all the older, larger models which support the installation of custom operating systems such as Linux. While the Air Force can do its own hard drive upgrades, it will have to run to grab the older hardware model before they're all gone.

Display 47 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 28 Hide
    joebob2000 , November 24, 2009 6:57 PM
    This is a very clever way to score high powered CPUs at Sony's expense, it's a wonder Sony hasn't come out with some sort of "patch" that blocked clustering from taking place. Is this the reason that the new slim PS3 has no linux support? Sony finally got tired of taking a loss on all these supercomputer projects?

    For those curious, the IBM Roadrunner supercomputer uses a variant of the Cell chip, 12,000 of them in fact. The extended cost per chip is $10,000 (including support hardware). If the Air Force can get their PS3 network running for $300 per chip plus a little extra (say $300 more per station) for support equipment like network, power, and cooling, they will still only be paying $600 per node compared to $10,000 per node the 'old fashioned way'.

    Now that's a government spending reduction I can get behind!
  • 18 Hide
    MrKKBB , November 24, 2009 7:04 PM
    ... and so Skynet is born from a bunch of PS3s
  • 15 Hide
    omnimodis78 , November 24, 2009 6:53 PM
    Why not just order whatever they need as a custom device instead of buying the actual console? Seems kinda odd that the U.S.A.F. has to purchase a retail product - a gaming console at that - to get their hands on some technology they seem to want. I don't know, it just seems like something a developing nation would do....not the USA.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    spanspace , November 24, 2009 6:48 PM
    What are they paying per unit?
  • 13 Hide
    Ehsan w , November 24, 2009 6:49 PM
    I bet it's just for playing God of War III
    when it comes out....
  • 12 Hide
    jonpaul37 , November 24, 2009 6:53 PM
    anyone else going to buy Sony stock?
  • 15 Hide
    omnimodis78 , November 24, 2009 6:53 PM
    Why not just order whatever they need as a custom device instead of buying the actual console? Seems kinda odd that the U.S.A.F. has to purchase a retail product - a gaming console at that - to get their hands on some technology they seem to want. I don't know, it just seems like something a developing nation would do....not the USA.
  • 28 Hide
    joebob2000 , November 24, 2009 6:57 PM
    This is a very clever way to score high powered CPUs at Sony's expense, it's a wonder Sony hasn't come out with some sort of "patch" that blocked clustering from taking place. Is this the reason that the new slim PS3 has no linux support? Sony finally got tired of taking a loss on all these supercomputer projects?

    For those curious, the IBM Roadrunner supercomputer uses a variant of the Cell chip, 12,000 of them in fact. The extended cost per chip is $10,000 (including support hardware). If the Air Force can get their PS3 network running for $300 per chip plus a little extra (say $300 more per station) for support equipment like network, power, and cooling, they will still only be paying $600 per node compared to $10,000 per node the 'old fashioned way'.

    Now that's a government spending reduction I can get behind!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 24, 2009 7:00 PM
    Thats silly, IBM sells cell based blade servers that can run whatever you want, take as much RAM as you want, and have faster processors than what comes in the PS3.
  • 3 Hide
    jerreece , November 24, 2009 7:04 PM
    omnimodis78Why not just order whatever they need as a custom device instead of buying the actual console? Seems kinda odd that the U.S.A.F. has to purchase a retail product - a gaming console at that - to get their hands on some technology they seem to want. I don't know, it just seems like something a developing nation would do....not the USA.


    Obama said he was going to help us out of this recession you know...

    Probably paying $600 each for them knowing how government contracts end up. ;) 
  • 18 Hide
    MrKKBB , November 24, 2009 7:04 PM
    ... and so Skynet is born from a bunch of PS3s
  • 1 Hide
    hundredislandsboy , November 24, 2009 7:08 PM
    I would have to see what they're spending for this project. I thought they could buy older quadcore CPU pulled from Dell upgrades at bottom cheap prices if they just wanted processing power.
  • 6 Hide
    joebob2000 , November 24, 2009 7:14 PM
    Let me try this again:

    SONY. TAKES. A. LOSS. ON. THE. PS3.

    Do you get that, at all? They are buying them because the blade server version is a TON more expensive (at least 5x, maybe close to 10x depending on loadout). The PS3 has a well understood CPU and a comparable Intel or AMD equipped server would be at least 3x more per socket.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 24, 2009 7:15 PM
    this reminds me of that urban legend from when the PS2 came out and there was a shortage... that Saddam was buying them to get around the US embargo on Iraq because they were considered games/toys and not computers, or something like that.
  • 3 Hide
    Honis , November 24, 2009 7:21 PM
    If they're buying at market value Sony is going to lose huge amounts of $ on this.

    MS and Sony run on the Gillette model. Give the handle away and we'll make it up on them buying the razors. In this case the console isn't free, but they lose $ on each sale assuming you'll go and make up the loss in game and accessory sales.

    Also to those saying why not buy x CPUs, the PS3 can stomp any current x86 based processor in calculations. Also, to buy a PC then an advance GFX card that equals the PS3s processing power is more expensive in both hardware and development. The PS3 just requires minor changes to be made to programs written entirely in C and C++ to run thanks to Linux support. With 2,200 PS3s they have a massive super computer at a fraction of the cost in both hardware and development. I do hope they buy them at real cost ($500-$800) since Sony will never see a real return on it. Even at that price its a better buy then an equivalent super computer.
  • 1 Hide
    LATTEH , November 24, 2009 7:54 PM
    interesing.... i wonder how many will be taken home for "combatablity test"
  • 0 Hide
    ssalim , November 24, 2009 8:09 PM
    Hm maybe they need to make another super computer completely made up off PS3s. Problem is, what will it be called? (codename)
    PSS for Play Super Station?
  • 0 Hide
    jmchien , November 24, 2009 8:10 PM
    I don't think Sony loses much on this in terms of profit since a few thousand PS3 consoles only represents less than 0.1%...
  • 2 Hide
    everlast66 , November 24, 2009 8:15 PM
    omnimodis78Why not just order whatever they need as a custom device instead of buying the actual console? Seems kinda odd that the U.S.A.F. has to purchase a retail product - a gaming console at that - to get their hands on some technology they seem to want. I don't know, it just seems like something a developing nation would do....not the USA.

    I think you shouldn't be surprised - the us can easily be classified as developing country nowadays - after the two years of recession together with the uk have somewhat fallen behind the most develloped countries.
  • 2 Hide
    itadakimasu , November 24, 2009 8:15 PM
    It's a sly way of stealing / utilizing japanese technology without having to buddy buddy w\ them.

    Can you imagine if they were tapped into everybodies ps3 and using them like a folding @home kinda deal while you're idle?
  • 0 Hide
    Onyx2291 , November 24, 2009 8:27 PM
    I suppose it is pretty cheap for what else it could be used for? A similar PC would be more expensive I think.. Maybe..
  • 2 Hide
    Impulse Fire911 , November 24, 2009 8:30 PM
    thats one hell of a LAN party...
  • 2 Hide
    7amood , November 24, 2009 8:33 PM
    makes me wonder why did they choose ps3 over xbox360...
    I guess this solves all the fanboy-ish issues in terms of superiority and power (not including the outdated graphic card).

    unfortunately sony won't make a single dime outta this sale coz as THEEEEEEEEY say, the manufacturing cost is still higher than the sale price (yes I know... am talking about the slim ps3).
Display more comments
Tom’s guide in the world
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • UK
Follow Tom’s guide
Subscribe to our newsletter