New game for PlayStation 3: Crunching numbers

By | December 7, 2009

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For the last year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., has used a bank of 40 interconnected PS3 consoles to decrypt passwords. It’s working to add 40 more units.

Through Stanford University’s Folding@home project, almost 40,000 PS3s volunteered by their owners during idle time currently contribute to the study of protein folding. More than 880,000 PS3 consoles have participated in the project, researchers said.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y., uses a cluster of 336 PS3s for research on urban surveillance and large image processing. Last month, the lab ordered 2,200 more units.

“We’re taking gaming consoles and doing something scientific,” said Mark Barnell, high-performance computing director at the information directorate of the Air Force’s research lab.

Since the PS3’s unveiling in 2005, the console has been touted not only for its amped-up gaming capabilities but also for its ability to generate complex real-time graphics and calculations thanks to its ground-breaking Cell processor, created by IBM in collaboration with Sony and Toshiba.

What particularly caught the attention of researchers was the PS3’s ability to have the Linux operating system installed on it – which allows the gaming console to be transformed into a powerful home computer.

That opened the door for researchers to use the PS3’s power for projects and experiments that required high-performance computing.

The Cell processor, researchers said, is perfect for applications that need a heavy amount of number-crunching and can vastly outperform traditional CPUs. The processor, for example, can do 100 billion operations per second while a typical CPU can only run 5 billion, said David P. Anderson, a computer scientist and director of the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. …

– via SFGate

Photo from rotpod from the PlayStation blog. There are 90 in this photo and I’m not sure where this is, but it would seen others have already put this idea into play.

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