Cooks food? Check. Cures cancer? Check. Keeps us safe at night? Check. Thinks like us? Check. Runs simulations regarding ripples space-time related to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? Hang on, that last one is new! Eight PlayStation 3s [PS3] have been strung together to process the same data as one Supercomputer and it’s a cool sounding project too.
Dr. Gaurav Khanna is the project overseer on research into gravitational waves and what happens when a super-massive black hole, nearly a million times the mass of Sol our Sun, swallows a star. Each simulation usuallys require the renting of Supercomputers at $5000 per run, with up to 500 processors to do the same type of the eight PS3s are doing thanks to the massive amount of processing power the Cell processor. In fact, the PS3 cluster is equal to 200 of the supercomputing nodes he previously relied on. Says Khanna;
“Basically, it’s almost like a replacement. I don’t have to use that supercomputer anymore, which is a good thing.”
Khanna also has praise for Sony’s decision to open up the PS3 to run Linux based software, and after tweaking his code, garnered Sony’s attention with the kind of performance he was driving out of the machine;
“Sony did this remarkable thing of making the PS3 an open platform, so you can in fact run Linux on it and it doesn’t control what you do. Once I was able to get to the point that I had this kind of performance from a single PS3, I think that’s when Sony started paying attention.”
Sony provided the cluster of PS3s, however, Khanna notes that despite the freebies, the price of the PS3 cluster compared to a Supercomputer is still quite attractive. With the PS3 cluster priced at $3200 US compared to $5000 US per Supercomputer session, they’re proving an excellent resource for scientists;
“For the same amount of money — well, I didn’t pay for it, but even if you look into the amount of funding that would go into buying something like eight PS3s — for the same amount of money I can do these runs indefinitely.”
The gravitational wave research is expected to be published in the next few weeks. So, what’s next for the PlayStation 3?
‘Astrophysicist Replaces Supercomputer with Eight PlayStation 3s’ from Wired.com