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The Supercomputer Next Door

March 26th, 2007 (11:33 am)
current mood: boggled

Background: Sony's PlayStation 3 uses a Cell CPU, designed by IBM; it's basically a PowerPC CPU with 7 coprocessors for heavy number crunching (such as 3D graphics, in the case of the PS3). When Sony and IBM announced it, they were calling it a supercomputer-on-a-chip; of course, that was understood to be, er, marketing. It hasn't helped that programming the Cell has turned out to be really hard; if you want to take advantage of those coprocessors, you have to write highly parallel algorithms, which most people just don't know how to do.

Well, now there's a bit of data showing that, yes, it can be worth it. Last week, a Folding@Home client was released for the PS3. Now, Folding@Home (like any of the foo@Home projects) works because it's embarassingly parallel in the first place; so it's not surprising that it works well on the PS3. As of yesterday, there were about 30,000 PS3s working on Folding@Home jobs, out of about 2,300,000 total active CPUs...and they were providing 734 teraflops, out of a total of 990. It's likely that Folding@Home will hit a petaflop Real Soon Now.

Comments

Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: March 26th, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC)
Foglio

A petaflop is when an anti-meat demonstration doesn't get any press, right?

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