Ah, the Sony PlayStation 3. A Blu-Ray player, an online video player, a Linux box — it’s used as anything but what it’s supposed to be: a game console. Now the US Air Force is buying 2,200 PS3s to build a supercomputer.
No, I’m not kidding.
The U.S. Air Force is looking to buy 2,200 Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles to build out a research supercomputer, according to an document posted on the federal government’s procurement Web site.
The PlayStation 3s will be used at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s information directorate in Rome, N.Y., where they will be added to an existing cluster of 336 PlayStation 3s being used to conduct supercomputing research.
The Air Force will use the system to “to determine the best fit for implementation of various applications,” including commercial and internally developed software specific to the PS3’s Cell Broadband Engine processor architecture. The research will help the Air Force decide where Cell Broadband Engine processor-derived hardware and software could be used in military systems.
You might think that Sony’s the big winner in this deal, and that the Air Force is stupid for buying thousands of overpriced game consoles. You’d be wrong, on both counts. Sony sells PS3s at a loss, hoping to make their money in games and accessories. That means the Air Force is getting Cell hardware for a fraction of the cost. [Read more…]