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{Januari 31, 2009}  

The Power of Our Toys

1-playstation-3-sony.jpgTalk about product placement! Computer chips developed for the Playstation 3 are going to be used to build “Roadrunner.” Roadrunner will be the world’s fastest computer when it is completed in 2008.

[Roadrunner] will achieve its superfast performance using a hybrid design, built with off-the-shelf components. The computer will contain 16,000 standard processors working alongside 16,000 “cell” processors, designed for the PlayStation 3 (PS3).

Each cell chip consists of eight processors controlled by a master unit that can assign tasks to each member of the processing team. Each cell is capable of 256 billion calculations per second.

The power of the cell chip means Roadrunner needs far fewer processors than its predecessors.


And this isn’t the only project that will harness Playstation 3 power. Standford University will be distributing a program to home users to harness these machines for their folding@home project.

The folding@home program would tap the cell’s spare processing power to examine how the shape of proteins, critical to most biological functions, affect diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This distributed computing method uses each individual machine to process a small amount of data, with results fed back over the internet to a central machine where they can be viewed together.

The Stanford researchers say that 10,000 consoles running the program would give a performance equivalent to one petaflop. The team hopes eventually to enlist 100,000 machines.


A network of 100,000 playstations would actually outperform Roadrunner.

I see a real opportunity for Sony here. Of course there will be the inevitable “our processors are so powerful they are being used to build the world’s fastest computer” advertisements.

Beyond that, Sony could score a big public relations victory by encouraging their users to sign up for the folding@home project. They could give players free time on the Sony network in exchange for signing up. They get credit for doing a good thing while they hook gamers on their networking service. I bet there would even be a way to write this off as a charitable donation.

If you’re keeping count, that’s a quadfer.

Somehow I think this also means I’m going to be buying a Playstation 3 (you know, for kids!) this Christmas.


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