Pentagon orders 2200 PS3s

Fox5

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Jan 31, 2005
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Wouldn't be the first bad spending decision our government made.

Seriously, ps3's? At this point, video cards give better performance per dollar with OpenCL or CUDA, and PCs are able to support more than 256MB of system memory and can have wicked fast network connections between them. Building a super computer out of ps3's just seems naive.

So the PS3, at a cost of $300 per system, delivers 150GFlops (single precision, only around 10GFlops in double precision...they'd be complete idiots to be using ps3 cell for double precision), 256MB system ram (the gpu is not accessible in linux), and a single gigabit ethernet connection.

A $110 4770 can do 960Gflops single precision, and 192GFlops in double precision, with a fair amount of money left to buy the rest of the system, which will most likely have more than 256MB ram, won't have a blu-ray drive, and could have additional gigabit ethernet ports.
 

mmntech

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Sep 20, 2007
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Wouldn't be the first bad spending decision our government made.

Seriously, ps3's? At this point, video cards give better performance per dollar with OpenCL or CUDA, and PCs are able to support more than 256MB of system memory and can have wicked fast network connections between them. Building a super computer out of ps3's just seems naive.

Depends. The military could be using existing software to do whatever it is they're doing. Software is usually the major expense, especially if you have to create a whole new program.
 

Fox5

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Jan 31, 2005
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Depends. The military could be using existing software to do whatever it is they're doing. Software is usually the major expense, especially if you have to create a whole new program.

Perhaps, but considering that there's nothing else quite like the cell, I doubt they have that much software ready for it.
 

Sadaiyappan

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Nov 29, 2007
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I thought OpenCL had some limitations on the code that can be run on it? For example, I think I read that you can't use pointers in OpenCL?

Also I read an article that was linked on Gaf saying the Army wanted to buy Cell servers but they cost $8,000 each so the ps3 was more cost effective. So it seems like they do have software for the cell ready.
 

nitromullet

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Jan 7, 2004
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Perhaps, but considering that there's nothing else quite like the cell, I doubt they have that much software ready for it.

I agree that OpenCL or CUDA would probably give them a greater bang for the buck if they were building a new system, but it looks like they are upgrading an existing system/supercomputer:

The U.S. Dept. of Defense has announced plans to buy an additional 2,200 PS3s to complement a military supercomputer cluster running on 336 PS3 systems.
 

Fox5

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Jan 31, 2005
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I agree that OpenCL or CUDA would probably give them a greater bang for the buck if they were building a new system, but it looks like they are upgrading an existing system/supercomputer:

Even still, the Cell in PS3 has rather poor double precision capability, lower than you could get with a normal desktop PC, and it's not like a ton of money (comparatively) was invested in the original setup, they just bought an order of magnitude more systems.
And its single precision capability of 150GFlops looks good, but I wonder how well it compares in actual utilization to a current quad core. (Note: Just looked it up, it seems the 150GFlops figure quoted is in utilization, at least for synthetic tests)

AMD and Intel quad cores get around 70-100GFlops single precision I believe, and half that for double precision.

Ok, I might not be able to knock cell for efficiency, according to an IBM white paper I'm reading, it achieves higher efficiency than the SSE units on Intel processors, though lower than Itanium. Still, Cell is still crippled in double precision (which most HPC projects are interested in), amount of system ram, and network interconnects.
 

brblx

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Mar 23, 2009
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This is what they're doing with them.
http://kotaku.com/5422179/playstation-3-cluster-or-skynet

...and IBM says there's no corporate demand for the cell...

is it just me, or are those like, baker's racks or something, and the playstations are held in place by zip ties?

not that it probably isn't effective. i actually see that whole cluster as a rather cost-efficient solution compared to the crappy tech i've seen the army spend beaucoop bucks on. but yeah, purpose-built PC would be better and cheaper.
 

Savarak

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Oct 27, 2001
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Does anyone think that Sony could give the Pentagon special access to run a CUDA-like process in their version of Linux, to be able to access all that extra unused power?
 

Fox5

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Does anyone think that Sony could give the Pentagon special access to run a CUDA-like process in their version of Linux, to be able to access all that extra unused power?

You don't need a CUDA-like thing to access the cell spe's, they're as open as any other architecture, programming wise. Just on a hardware level, the cell in the PS3 wasn't made to be good at double precision.
 

Savarak

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You don't need a CUDA-like thing to access the cell spe's, they're as open as any other architecture, programming wise. Just on a hardware level, the cell in the PS3 wasn't made to be good at double precision.

I'm talking about the GPU power
 

Fox5

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Jan 31, 2005
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I'm talking about the GPU power

Well, maybe they'd give them access to the GPU, but CUDA didn't exist for the geforce 7 series (what the ps3 uses), and no way would sony invest the resources to make one for a single graphics chip, especially one with hardware plainly not suited for general programmability.

And 3d functionality isn't important for this type of task, at most they probably use the reverse engineered nouveau drivers for linux, if they do graphical work at all.