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[ossig] Research center unveils Playstation-based supercomputer
By Winston Chai, CNETAsia
Wednesday, May 28 2003 9:51 AM
A U.S. research center has clustered 70 Sony PlayStation 2 game consoles into a Linux supercomputer that ranks among the 500 most
powerful in the world.
According to the New York Times, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois assembled
the US$50,000 machine out of components bought in retail shops. In all, 100 PlayStation 2 consoles were bought but only 70 have been
used for this project.
These units are mounted on racks and are networked with two Hewlett-Packard 2650 Procurve switches, NCSA said on its Web site. NCSA
said in the report their system could theoretically deliver half a trillion operations per second, which equals 0.5 teraflops of
If it performs as promised, the machine will rank amongst the world’s top 500 supercomputers.
At present, NEC’s Earth Simulator is the world’s most powerful machine. It is 80 times faster than NCSA’s PlayStation-based system
with over 5,200 processors and 40 teraflops of computing power.
NCSA’s supercomputer runs on the Linux operating system which was included as part a Sony Linux kit for the PlayStation 2.
"This distribution uses Linux 2.2.1 ported to the PlayStation's Emotion Engine CPU (Central Processing Unit), and is based on an
earlier version of Red Hat Linux for PCs," said NCSA. "The distribution includes development tools that you would expect--libraries,
editors, compilers and debuggers that you'd find in any Linux distribution."
The console's Emotion Engine graphics processor, capable of producing up to 6.5 billion mathematical operations a second, is force
behind the cluster's power, the report said.
The team is said to be using this project as a test bed to see how they can use lower cost, off-the-shelf technologies to aid their
studies. The PlayStation supercomputer already running physics calculations.
This distributed computing effort using the Playstation is not unique to NCSA. Sony is also singing a similar tune with ongoing tests
using groups of Linux-powered PS2s hooked up in grids to boost processing speed.
A Sony spokesman previously said the firm is working with IBM to apply Big Blue's research in "grid computing," a variation of
distributed computing, to the next PlayStation.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
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