Department of Defense orders 2,200 PS3s

Good thing the PlayStation 3 dropped in price. The US Department of Defense ordered 2,200 more of the consoles to crank up their PS3 supercomputer, currently consisting of 336 of the devices in a Linux cluster. According to the official Justification Review Document (cache link) required for the purchase of the PS3s, the game platform, with its IBM Cell microprocessor, is a much better value for the money than IBM's Cell-powered products designed for supercomputing applications. Ars Technica points out that the price difference comes in part because the PS3 is a loss leader for Sony. From the Justification Review Document:
With respect to cell processors, a single 1U server configured with two 3.2GHz cell processors can cost up to $8K while two Sony PS3s cost approximately $600. Though a single 3.2 GHz cell processor can deliver over 200 GFLOPS, whereas the Sony PS3 configuration delivers approximately 150 GFLOPS, the approximately tenfold cost difference per GFLOP makes the Sony PS3 the only viable technology for HPC applications.
"Sony still subsidizing US military supercomputer efforts" (Ars Technica, thanks Rob Rader!)


  1. I think it has been said before, but the “new&cheap” PS3s are lacking the ability to run a guest OS on them. So they will have to splosh out more money for the old models or use dev-kits (which are nor cheap btw) … or of course just buy cell blades from IBM, like everybody else does.

  2. Your (if you’re American) tax dollars at wor-…..wait, the DoD actually did something on the cheap? What’s probably happening behind the scenes is Sony is lobbying for a secret deal where the DoD ends up buying two dozen crappy ps3 titles for each console.

  3. At $300 USD a clip, that comes down to just under $2M USD, or enough to fund operations in Iraq for four minutes.

    1. Even given the generous assumption that the DoD bought the first three-hundred at launch price you are off by over a million.

      (2,200 * 300) + (336 * 600) = 861,600

      It wouldn’t even be close if they bought those launch consoles on eBay.

  4. First off… who let the spammer in?


    I think it’s great that the DoD is actually trying to save money, but doesn’t this break some DMCA law or something? Couldn’t Sony go sue crazy and say that the DoD is intentionally breaking IP security on the machines?

  5. I think 2200 PS3s would be better used if they were distributed to military day rooms (and other similar locations) to help boost the morale of the troops.

    1. A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

      (I’m sorry, I have to be pedantic about the quote, only because it is burned into my memory: “Shall we play a game?” Still chilling and exciting after all this time…)

  6. In completely unrelated news the Department of Defense has ordered 2,200 copies of Modern Warfare 2 for ‘research’ purposes.

  7. Ars Technica should know that the singular unit is a GFLOPS, not a GFLOP.
    Giga-floating-point operations per…

  8. 1. Someone will complain: “Hey! The Department of Defense is engaging in wasteful spending buying all those video game systems!”

    2. The Departement of Defense will pass along the numbers referenced above.

    3. Someone else (or possibly the same people) will complain: “Hey! Sony is underpricing their products! This is against capitalism, and yet another sign that this country is plunging headlong into socialism. I’m utterly disgusted that an American corporation is engaging in this practice.” (And yes, they’ll forget that Sony is based in Japan.)

    4. Sony reluctantly raises the price on the PS3.

    5. PROFIT! (Then loss.)

  9. Wait, wait, wait… you’re trying to tell me the US Government is sacrificing a bit of convenience for an option that is ten times more cost efficient?

    Ok, I give up: what’s the catch?

  10. Actually, I don’t believe Sony will be suing for violations. In fact, I think Sony supports the use of PS3 clusters as supercomputers, as long as it’s by a large company.

    Also, a PS3 computing cloud is much more energy efficient than a traditional super computing array.

    Also, my guitar is vibrating every time I cough :(

  11. I was under the impression that the newer (slim)PS3s could not have Linux installed on them. I suppose the gub’ment has ways around that, but it’s funny to think how it would be an easy Christmas for many fed employees if they purchased without realizing that.

  12. I completely get it. Ever play MSG III? There’s some great games out there that would provide tactical training on the cheap.

  13. stevew:

    If PS3s are folding protein at Stanford, can I make my old Dreamcast at home fold my laundry? Thanks if you have any info.

  14. “… but doesn’t this break some DMCA law or something?”

    Nope. At most, you’re violating your warranty.

    No company can dictate how or what after market modifications you make to “real” (read: physical) property. You cannot change their software, but the hardware is always fair game and how you use it is entirely up to you.

  15. Sinister or benign the bottom line is that for a savings of $3600USD we lose 50 gflops by buying PS3’s. And yet if DoD buys from IBM directly they get bent over and hosed for those extra 50 gflops…
    The US is involved in two wars and a major manufacturer is way overcharging them… that boys and girls is called “War Profiteering” and is against US federal law.
    IBM should be prosecuted. (Never liked those short sleeve shirts with ties guys anyway.)

  16. Cool, now if only the Civil Air Patrol was to do that, the cadets would go nuts!

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