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The Military Games Idle Technology

Air Force Supercomputer Made From PS3's 212

Posted by samzenpus
from the sum-of-its-parts dept.
The Air Force's Research Lab in Rome, NY. has one of the cheapest supercomputers ever made, and best of all over 3,000 of your friends can play Tekken on it. The computer is made from 1,716 PlayStation 3s linked together, and is used to process images from spy planes. From the article: "The Air Force calls the souped-up PlayStations the Condor Supercomputer and says it is among the 40 fastest computers in the world. The Condor went online late last year, and it will likely change the way the Air Force and the Air National Guard watch things on the ground." We covered this story back in December when the Condor first went online.
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Air Force Supercomputer Made From PS3's

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  • So what's new? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @10:29PM (#35594664)

    We covered this story back in December when the Condor first went online.

    And ... what's changed?

  • Re:Upgrades. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bacon Bits (926911) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @11:23PM (#35594962)

    Yes, that's the wise thing to do. Pick on the customer who not only has more lawyers, who not only has special laws which apply to their behavior as a defense organization, who not only has more money than Sony, but who also has more friends in Congress.

    If you're the 9th grade bully you don't go picking on the 12th grade wrestling star who's the son of the Principal. Pick battles you can win.

    The wise thing to do is to produce a new SKU of the PS3 designed for distributed computing and development which allows the Other OS option and has a special SDK but, for example, can't join PSN (and perhaps cannot even play PS3 games) or which uses a special PSN for this purpose. Then you no have a way to sell these devices to your customers and you can increase the price per unit because you can no longer expect to recoup your losses on game software purchases. Indeed, all you should need to do is put in an option that lets you enable a distributed computing mode. Perhaps entering a software key which the bootstrap firmware will recognize. Then it's just a matter of selling a site license software key. You don't even need a truly different SKU.

    "But people will hack it!" Like they already have? This way you get paid for legitimate people to use your product as they wish. You do what you can to prevent loss from hacking and the like, but it's not a valid excuse for not selling what people are demanding from you. The secret of capitalism is to give people what they want at a price they will pay, not to punish them for doing something you didn't expect.

  • Re:Upgrades. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by inflex (123318) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @11:25PM (#35594974) Homepage Journal

    No, I think salivating is right - because it'll mean a very long, protracted law suit likely - which means a lot of billable hours and at a higher rate because after all, they're not just dealing with anyone, they're handling the US Govt (realistic or not). Win or lose, it doesn't matter.

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @11:29PM (#35595000) Journal

    There's an attitude that's commonplace among with regards to stuff that you are supposed to do a particular thing with it. When you buy a can of Pringles, you are supposed to throw away the can! You buy a microwave for cooking, and the PS3 is for video games, and crayons are for kids to draw with, etc.

    It's considered anachronistic to use crayons as an electric insulator, or PS3 for calculating aerodynamics, or use a microwave for generating and studying R/F interference patterns. And making long-range communications equipment from a Pringles can is.... just odd.

    Yet none of these alternative uses would be particularly surprising to the engineering type, who think nothing of making a filter out of pantie-hose and a plastic butter container, because our type not only thinks outside the box, we decide what would be the best way to slice up the box in order to satisfy the problem at hand.

    Good show Air Force!

  • The next step (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Required Snark (1702878) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @12:51AM (#35595388)

    Even though the Slashdot Pundits dismiss this as useless, obviously the user community it supports thinks it is a big success. The claim is that Condor is in the to 40 supercomputers and it costs 10 times less then getting the same results using other hardware. Not too shabby.

    It's likely that one of the reasons that this is so useful is the the SPE/Cell processors are good at the kind of image processing that the USAF is interested in. They are doing a lot of work in the Fourier domain, which is common for radar processing, so the Cell streaming 64 bit floating point architecture is well suited to the task.

    From the article:

    As impressive as the Condor is, it won’t be for long. Barnell envisions integrating smartphone processors into high-performance computing, putting the power of a Condor into a small surveillance drone the size of your fist, something weighing less than a pound and using the energy of a standard light bulb.

    This translates to "We're going to use ARM processors as soon as possible".

    These researchers see the value in leveraging commercial technology for cost effective high performance computing. If you want good performance per watt driven by a big commercial market the ARM is the way to go. There are GPUs that work with the ARM architecture, as well as ARM vector processing units. I would guess that they plan to use the upcoming generation of 64 bit ARM processors as soon as they are available. They might even start with current generation 32 bit dual CPU 2GHz hardware.

    Just because the ARM is not as cool as CUDA doesn't make it useless. IBM has announce that it will not do a next gen PS3/Cell processor, so the USAF funding that effort by itself would be costly and have long lead times. ARM CPUs are only going to get cheaper, faster and be very power efficient. It's the obvious next step.

  • Re:Upgrades. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2011 @12:58AM (#35595416)
    I have to agree with GP here. I can't imagine very many things less pleasant for a lawyer than standing up and explaining to the jury that the feature was disabled because of the evil haxxorz abusing it....

    And then having an air force general take the stand (in uniform) to testify as to how that very same feature is being used to defeat al-qaeda by the brave men and women of the US armed forces.....

The first version always gets thrown away.

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