The world’s most powerful supercomputer is now a video game console

I found this story on a blog by the editors of Foreign Policy magazine. Some highlights:

Over the weekend, a video game system became the heart of the most powerful supercomputer on earth. As I write this, Playstation 3 game consoles all over the world are working together to power through 493 trillion calculations per second in a group effort to find cures for Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s Disease, Mad Cow Disease, and several forms of cancer. To put that into perspective, IBM’s Blue Gene, considered to be the fastest unclassified supercomputer, reportedly maxes out at 367 trillion calculations per second. And the Playstation 3 cluster is still growing.

Adding in all OSes, it’s up to 645 terraflops now. Yowsa!

Stocked with seven processors, all tuned to perform heavy number crunching, the Playstation 3 puts the average single-processor PC to shame. (All that computing power is also using quite a bit of energy, but that’s another story.)

Here’s a link to the Folding@Home site at Stanford and here is a table of current data from there (as of Tuesday morning, March 27):

OS Type Current TFLOPS* Active CPUs
Windows 157 164531
Mac OS X/PowerPC 7 9029
Mac OS X/Intel 10 3328
Linux 44 25630
GPU 47 794
Playstation 3 381 29073
Total 646 232385

So here’s a table of my own data – I broke out my calculator to figure out MFLOPS per CPU:

Windows PC: 0.954 MFLOPS per CPU

Mac OS X/PowerPC: 0.775 MFLOPS per CPU

Mac OS X/Intel: 3.004 MFLOPS per CPU

Linux: 1.717 MFLOPS per CPU

GPU: 59.194 MFLOPS per CPU

PS3: 13.105 MFLOPS per CPU

Fascinating, isn’t it? Lots of analysis could be done on that data, but I’ll just focus on just one: with hundreds of thousands of computational data points to factor into the comparison, the PS3 video game console CPU is nearly 14 times as powerful as the average PC CPU running Windows today, and nearly 17 times as fast as the average PowerPC Mac CPU. Not bad for a game machine?


4 thoughts on “The world’s most powerful supercomputer is now a video game console

  1. Stephen Tordoff says:

    Thing is, the comparision you do does not show the average Windows PC, it shows the average PC that is folding.

    Most of these will be old machines that people have put to work, and most likely being used for something else as well, whereas the PS3 is brand new and not doing anything else as the same time

    Now if we could break it down into speeds of processor and load, that would be fasinating

  2. timjowers says:

    Stunning and intriguing. This hints how a general purpose OS like Linux can trounce a general purpose OS like Windows and a specialized machine like a game machine can blow away any general purpose system. I have searched before for comparisons to SuperComputers. Basically, the new Sun SperComputer is to be 500 PetaFlops so one would need over a million Windows computers! When one considers the reduction in improvement as more and more computers are added (non-linear improvement), then this is probably more close to 1B. How many computers exist? This back-of-the-envelope estimation shows that a few mega companies or large governments can has comput power equal to or orders of magnitue better than all of their subjects – combined!

  3. timjowers says:

    Also alot of people turn off their computers at night. The chart shows about 200K personal computers are equivalent to one super-computer. 200K * $500 each would be $100M; so supercomputers are probably a bargain.

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