It seems like the United States Air Force is a huge fanboy of Sony’s PS3. The Air Force has just placed an order for 2,200 Sony Playstation 3 game consoles, according to a requisition form posted on the FBO (Federal Business Opportunities) website. But obviously the pilots aren’t going to play games on them during their leisure time.
Instead, the PS3 will be used to perform an altruistic task – to built a legitimately powerful CPU or also known as a supercomputer, all thanks to its eight-processor Cell processors. The game consoles will be housed at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s information directorate in Rome, New York, where they will be combined with an already existing cluster of 336 being used to conduct supercomputing research.
The current cluster has been used by the Air Force to conduct several studies such as Back Projection Synthetic Aperture Radar Imager formation (the processing of multiple radar images into higher resolution composite images), High Definition Video processing, and Neuromorphic Computing (the building of computers with brain-like properties).
The expanded network will be focused on the study of various software applications which are specific to the PS3’s Cell Broadband Engine processor architecture, including Advanced Computing Architectures and High Performance Embedded Computing.
You may wonder why the folks at the US Air Force make use of the Cell processors in the PS3 to build supercomputers. Well, the reason is simple. There are much cheaper and faster than multicore Xeon processors, which were used by the Air Force in the past.