Playstation 3 Compute Clusters

Have you heard about the Playstation 3 computing clusters that are starting to pop up? This is no game: it’s the real thing. Apparently the IBM Cell microprocessor (based on the Power architecture) is so powerful that it is leaps and bound above other desktop systems.

The Folding@Home protein-folding project (one I very much appreciate) uses idle computers all over the world to compute protein folding – which will aid in scientific research for cures for Alzheimers, diabetes, and others. This project came out with a client for the Playstation 3 for use in the Folding@Home project, which nodes now surpass all other computing nodes combined in sheer processing power.

On March 8, North Carolina State University announced that professor Frank Mueller had created the first academic Playstation 3 cluster (8 nodes). At the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, assistant professor Dr. Gaurav Khanna is running a cluster of eight Playstation 3s to analyze gravity waves from the stars. In Barcelona, Spain, a distributed computing project for biomedical research known as the PS3GRID uses the Sony Playstation 3 exclusively.

Terra Soft (the people behind Yellow Dog Linux, YUM, and the Briq) are now offering Playstation 3 clusters preconfigured in a 6- or 32-node cluster configuration. A single Playstation 3 with Yellow Dog Linux pre-installed is also available.

A Playstation 3 cluster built by Terra Soft was the cover story of the August 1, 2007, Linux Journal.

As might be surmised, Linux runs fine on the Playstation 3: Ravi has a fine summary of the possibilities.