Sony PS3: A multipurpose supercomputer?


What does the PS3 mean to you? Just a gaming console? Think again! The power under the hood is immense. The PPU and the SPEs together make it a very powerful computing device. Stack up about 8 of them and voila! you get a supercomputer!

Haf a look at this screenshot:
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(Thats our PS3 Cluster on which almost all the time I SSH to. Ah ha! Now I know where all the PS3s from our Library haf vanished! :P)

One of our labs at NCSU runs a cluster of 8 PS3s. How powerful is it? Well.. quite powerful for hundreds of NCSU students to remotely login and complete their assignments and projects on it, simultaneously! The cluster is connected to the main University network and hence sharing is a piece of cake. Its faaaast.. responsive and absolutely apt in such a scenario. The cluster runs 64-bit Fedora Core 5 over a hypervisor layer custom-developed by Sony. Fedora was an obvious choice considering the fact that Red Hat's Head Office is inside our University Campus! :P [OK, I know NCSU gets RHEL at very discounted prices :D] How much does the PS3 cluster cost? Hmmm.. not even a fraction of the cost of a normal supercomputer!

The fact that they are so powerful highlights that its architecture and design is simply miles ahead of today's processors. They are used everywhere - University computer clusters, scientific computing like Folding@Home and almost everywhere where "cheap" supercomputing is a requirement.

Interested in reading more about the PS3 and its architecture? Read this. This website tells more about NCSU's PS3 Cluster. The weird looking man in the pics there is Dr.Frank Mueller, our Operating Systems Instructor.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Little question: is that Mac OSX? Or are you using linux?
Thanks!
Anirudh said…
@Anonymous post
Guess.. guess!! :)
T said…
Lolz anonymous the host name itself implies it:p

So the university put PS3 to a good use, apart from gaming...
Quiz_Master said…
Oh so thats why University have PS3. 1st when you mentioned them I thought WTH PS#s are doing in a 'University'. Awesome use.. and yeah PS3 cluster provides almost equal power as a supercomputer. Sony really rocks when it comes to technology. PS3 is way ahead og its time.
Anirudh said…
No dude.. there are hundreds of PS3s for each dept. for supercomputing purpose. Just that we use those ones most which are kept in the library for playing :D hehe...
Manan said…
That's freaking awesome! I had read somewhere that scientists were gonna use this processing capability of thePS3 in a world wide cluster for computing purposes.
Anirudh said…
Actually they are.. huge PS3 clusters are being used for the LHC project and distributed projects like Folding@Home etc. haf 60% processing power from PS3s.
Anonymous said…
Then why the hell IBM not releasing cell processors for PC ???
Anirudh said…
IBM does haf their high end servers based on the Cell processor. The performance is incredible! However the problem with this is that they are based on the PowerPC architecture and hence your "Windows" will not run on it.

Most of the software you run on your computer today will haf to be completely modified to support this architecture. Hence the rarity of Cell processors in everyday PCs.

But IBM says the future is the Cell (and Cell-like processors).

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