With $5000 of his research grant left burning a hole in his wallet earlier this year, Frank Mueller, a computer scientist from North Carolina State University, decided to hit the shops and buy eight Playstation 3 games consoles. Not for pleasure, you understand — no, Mueller figured that with eight Playstations strapped together he could create a modestly powered supercomputer. “The cost for performance is unbeatable,” he says.
Mueller’s “cluster” of games consoles doesn’t quite break into the TOP500 list of supercomputers. But if he had another $4m lying about, he reckons he could string together 10,000 Playstations to make the fastest supercomputer in the world.
So, could physicists use Playstations to save a few trips to Blue Gene? “Yes,” says Mueller, “if they are willing to substantially rewrite their most computer-intensive code portions in a non-standard API.” That’s the Application Programming Interface, for those of you who don’t know.
On his website, Mueller notes that he uses his Playstation cluster for “educational purposes”.