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

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.

  • spanspace
    What are they paying per unit?
    Reply
  • Ehsan w
    I bet it's just for playing God of War III
    when it comes out....
    Reply
  • jonpaul37
    anyone else going to buy Sony stock?
    Reply
  • omnimodis78
    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.
    Reply
  • joebob2000
    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!
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • jerreece
    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. ;)
    Reply
  • MrKKBB
    ... and so Skynet is born from a bunch of PS3s
    Reply
  • hundredislandsboy
    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.
    Reply
  • joebob2000
    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.
    Reply