The Air Force Research Laboratory has recently finished work on a several-month long project, in which a supercomputer made entirely out of PlayStation 3s was constructed. If you think you're looking at the full device in this photo, think again - the device is constructed out of 1,760 different PS3s.
Entitled the Condor Cluster, the supercomputer can output 500 TFLOPS per second (that's 1012 floating operation points per second) fully utilizing the processing power of each PS3, as well as 168 graphical processing units and 84 servers. Researchers at the AFRL got in touch with Sony, who supplied them older models of their product, since the newer versions don't support Linux.
You might be wondering why the Air Force would be interested in using PS3s as opposed to regular CPU technology, but there's good reasoning behind their logic: utilizing the PS3 hardware, the total system cost of the computer ended up being around 2 million USD. This is only about 5 to 10 percent of what the estimated cost would have been if they built the same rig out of computer components pieced together from different companies, and at the same time the PS3-made cluster only uses around 10% of the energy that that the computer-based variant would have used. All-in-all, it looks like our passion for gaming has led to an unexpected benefit.
It's kind of crazy to think about how technological advances have allowed the very things sitting in our living room to be powering something that could very well save - or end - lives. While you might be calling in for an air strike in Black Ops on the PS3, some of the ones in the Condor Cluster might be calculating the costs of doing so in real life. Let's take a moment, and hope supercomputers like these are used to save more lives than they take.
What do you think about the AFRL's Sony-style supercomputer? Were you surprised at how efficient it is compared to a regular component-built system? Do you think we might see more of these in the future? Let us know your thoughts!