Dec 3 2010Air Force Builds 1,760 PS3 Supercomputer


Can you say YOUR armed forces' supercomputer was built entirely out of gaming consoles by the same company who invented the Walkman? I think not! Enter the Air Force's 1,760 Playstation 3 supercomputer, allegedly the 33rd largest supercomputer IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.*

Yes, the Air Force's crazy PS3 computer consists of all those gaming consoles, stripped of their Blu-ray functionality, connected to 168 seperate graphical processing units and 84 coordinating servers. It's used "for things like research into AI, fast processing of satellite pictures and the enhancement of radar."

Nice, I assume it can still stream Netflix though, on account of the movie on the screen there. AND YOU BETTER HAVE NOT PAID FOR 1,760 SUBSCRIPTIONS EITHER, AIR FORCE. You think I won't whip your ass in some Peggle? BRING IT, ACE!

*Alien supercomputers excluded.

The Air Force's PlayStation 3 supercomputer [dvice]

Related Stories
Reader Comments

Mmm... Playstation.

What movie is that on the monitor? I know I've seen it and it is driving me crazy that I can't place it.

Seriously the air force bought 1700 ps3s instead of regular computers for this?

They could have bought much more powerful PCs for alot less then a ps3.

That's just badassary!!

I think its Terminator 2, the part where Miles Dyson is about to blow himself up.

ooo Air force, AI, super computer,

If the PS3 is the building blocks for the first SkyNet I will not be a happy bunny.

It's Terminator 2.

thats T2 judgement day.

glad to see the military still has skynet on its mind.

Look at the screen.Isn't that Joe Morton playing "Miles Dyson" in Terminator 2?

@3: That was my thought exactly. The price of a console compared to an equally-or-more powerful PC's inner workings is ridiculously higher than you should be paying. I'm all for people using their consoles as computers (particularly with how powerful they have become this generation), but if you're going to be jury-rigging a massive supercomputer out of similar pieces, at least save the cash and buy the pieces without all the extra stuff.

Another thing I noticed, since those are all standard PS3 models -- if they had at least invested in the slims, they probably could have fit close to 3,000 systems in that same space.

@9 this news is actually so old that slims didn't exist when they did this

@ 10 i heard they just got a great deal on old refurbs

It is Terminator 2., it's a blu-ray player too right?

I'm too stupid to read the comments before posting my own so let me just say that's the scene in T2 where Miles Dawson is dying and about to trigger the detonator.


This may have been considerably cheaper than buying PCs to do the job.

First, note that the machines have been stripped of the blue-ray feature. If this was done by sony as a special order, that could have reduced the cost of the machines.

Second, where consoles are offered in multiple models, if all you're interested in is raw computing power, you can opt for the cheapest model; skipping out on unnecessary extras like larger harddrives.

Third, consoles are often sold at a loss. Companies like Sony and MS actually lose money on console sales. They do this to grow the number of potential consumers for their software (which has a nice phat margin). This model doesn't work with PC manufacturers who derive little to no benefit from incremental software sales. As a result, comparable processing power will be more expensive in a PC than in a console.

Fourth; if these are old FATTY PS3s that Sony was trying to unload before releasing the new slimer model, they could have been offered at a substantially reduced price.

.... *sigh*. Really?

@16 I love Ghostbusters! Where can I get one of the Slimer models you refer to?

Intersting...except that this photo shows about 250 PS3's, not anywhere close to 1700. That's not to say they all have to be in one room, but you'd think if you were making a big deal out of something using thousands of something, you'd do your best for the picture to show it.

This is kind of like if I said, I built a supercomputer out of 10,000 Xbox 360's, but I only show you a picture of my living room. and I say "duh...the rest aren't in this picture"

@18 - yeah, noticed that as it was loading. *sigh*

Anyway, if you follow the links back to the original article (at, they mention a few interesting points...

1. These are indeed the old fatboys - Sony likely sold them for a song
2. The purchase was a direct deal with Sony (again, probably a great deal while unloading in anticipation of the new slims)
3. In addition to the raw computing power, they were also interested in the unique architecture of the playstation chipset, meaning that you could not replicate this setup using PC hardware.

hey ME I don't like it when people tell me i'm wrong
you're the one who is wrong

@16: That actually makes a lot more sense now. I didn't consider that they could have struck a deal directly with Sony to acquire the hardware. I've heard of that before.

Still, pretty cool overall. I wonder if they ever let [email protected] come on to do some 1,760-cell-powered cancer research during the down time.

I read an article a while back they chose the Ps3 because they got a good deal and because they wanted the cell processor.

Sweet, Seth. Lemme do it again, then.

Your suggestion of using slims (cost aside) wouldn't work. Per the original article:

"While still capable of running cutting-edge games and even newer gaming applications, Sony no longer was using the components that enabled the Defense Department engineers to link the devices and more traditional graphical processing units and run them on a Linux operating system."

looove the terminator reference, that's just funnay.

@24: Huh. Interesting! I had heard Sony disabled the Linux functionality of the PS3, but I didn't know it included removing hardware components from the slims. I remember they were originally touting that as one of the more prominent additional functions of the console. Strange how they just decided to abandon it (probably to save costs on the Slims).

Doesn't the Air Force have nuke's and stuff? Why did they have to pay for these? Just have an F-22 orbit Sony HQ until they submit...for free.

funny. with all the PS3s, the stuff it does still lags. LAGGERS!

HEY GW! Maverick was in TopGun which is the NAVY's top pilots not AirForce.

This is old news. The only thing new about it is that they finished it. There was a report a while back when Sony took Other OS support out that it pissed off the Air Force because they needed Other OS to make it work.

Also you should be able to tell the image on the screen is shopped, look how much clearer it is compared to the whole picture.

I am absolutely positive that this was someone high up there that wanted to make a cool project. Dont get me wrong I would have done it too if I was in that position.

I could have created a much more powerful super computer with less money. If the airforce wanted to find a better deal they could have found one.

My work is constantly paying some one to recycle old PCs with specs higher then the ps3. And I am sure there are more companies that do the same. So the Airforce couldve gotten paid to build a super computer instead of spendingmoney on these.

The only interest in using the ps3 is for the architecture of the processor? So now its less compatible with everything else cause the architecture is different. The only way to get parts is and when one of the nodes goes out they have to find a new fatt ps3. Which are not produced anymore.

Not to mention they can only get support and parts from one company for there very large and expensive super computer. Instead of millions of different companies who support PC. Smart move.

@14 I wouldn't call you stupid - everyone else does - but I wouldn't.

Seriously, this is a bit of really old news. I saw this like a year ago.

As others have already noted, the Terminator 2 image on the monitor, must be 'shopped in there to help you make the obvious conclusion that Sony and the Air Force are ultimately responsible for the creation of Skynet.

Hahaha nice... made from old GI's ps ?

A gamer/geek would never sleep with such a system. XD

This does make sense. How did skynet beat us? Used a f-ing game shark!

The Air Force uses Piece of Shit 3 while Spec Ops use 360.
Fuck the Piece of Shit 3!

@ just about all of you. We get it, T2, Skynet, Obviously whoever cropped the picture onto the TV screen did it for that reason!

To anyone who thinks that they can build an equivalent machine for cheaper.
Cheaper than they government paid, maybe. cheaper than anyone else with the same idea, not likely. an entire PS3 system, Brand new in store=$250-$300 and Ebay for less. The Motherboard in my engineering PC was was almost $200. That and a decent processor will run you at the very least $100. If you COULD build a Ps3 equivalent PC for less than a Ps3 cost on the open market, well then you're an idiot for not just doing it and making millions of dollars every year.

@ everyone who thinks that the Government actually got a deal on these things then you are NUTS. They probably paid full market price if not more for them THEN paid Sony to strip them down. The US Government overpays for things on a daily basis because they put ignorant people in positions of spending money when they have no clue what they are doing.

Anyone who thinks that The Airforce has made a big mistake because now they units are outdated and they can't get parts, do not understand our Gov't. If the Airforce used 100 PS3s to build a supercomputer then it would buy 5000. so if they used 1,760, guess how many they bought. well spare parts problem solved.

I bet they all break in 2 years, right after the warranty runs out. IT HAPPENS!

Louis of

man this is very old new i read about this when sony killed the OS with the 3.20 update

@40 government spending.

Your stupid :p

Remember that the PS3 uses IBM cell processors that are designed for network connectivity. It was debated whether Sony would allow distributed processing for it's online games using every console connected to the Playstation Network. That's how Skynet will really come to be.

@ 30, duh, that's because its a high def Tv.
with all those PS3s powering it its even more high def then real life.

Yeah way old news, this has been around for almost a year now...thanks geekologie for old news :D

And then Sony removed Other OS support and suddenly the Air Force had a room full of game systems that can only play downloaded games like PAIN and Flower.

yea, this is old. i remember seeing this around the time the ps3 came out.

I think thats a little overkill for watching T2.


The should keep adding PS3s until it's #1.

hmmm did anyone bother to count how many PS3s are in the picture? Or for that matter that could be in the picture??? I hope they have like 5 more rooms of these other-wise the 1760 is a crock of GW banter... i mean shit (:oP

Bullshit. Those lazy pieces of shit get DoD approved funding for this fucking bullshit and we (the Marines) suffer with no funds cause we are a dept of the Navy and have to share and suffer with what we get excess from them. The air Force....sorry, Chair Force, doesn't do anything anyway, wtf


PS3 doesn't have online subscription fees. suck on that xbox.

"Would you like to play a game...?"

it's definitely terminator 2, for some reason i yelled it out loud when i saw it

"stripped of their Blu-ray functionality"
What good is it then?

Seriously, this came out shortly after the PS3 launched. It was one of those "Here's why you can't get a PS3" stories back when people were hoarding them and selling them for profit. Do you guys (geekologie writer/writers) not look into this? Not have short term memory? Are you like Leonard from Memento?

There's a 1/100 chance that when I see a story from Geekologie in my RSS reader, I'll be left thinking "I'm sure I saw this story in a spam fax before I had dial-up", and a 1/10 chance that I'll say "isn't this a joke/satire site"?

Any game is better than that one.

I am always so happy I joined the only service that does crazy ass shit like this. Where would we be without these guys? And where is my chair?

do you people actually know what kind of hardware is actually inside a PS3 processor? seriously they are powerfull little fuckers... a power PC controll CPU and 8 less powerfull vector processors, all connected on a highbandwidth interconnect bus and the ability to chain each of those ps3 processors to other processors. so to all of you people saying that they could save money buying pc's the short answer is no... no they can't

and to all you people talking about the fatboys being inferior to the slims... the fatboys are the only models that you can put linux on them. One of the main reasons sony came out with the slim is because so many reasearch facilities and the like kept on buying the ps3s in order to make supercomputers just like this one. sony sold and still sells ps3s for a loss and since these facilities were never going to buy games they remade the ps3...

'entire universe' ?? What a dumb thing to say! Is this a high school report? Because of course there are plenty of comparable computers in our own solar system... Using all these domestically produced toys to process data instead of creating your own system is much like purchasing 20 Ford explorers for the air conditioning systems! 'the coolest AC in the universe'.. Because we can't make an air con, we're so completely outsourced now that the R&D effort is actually just Barbara from procurement...

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments relevant to the post. Inappropriate or promotional comments may be removed. Email addresses are required to confirm comments but will never be displayed. To create a link, simply type the URL (including http://) or email address. You can put up to 3 URLs in your comments.