The Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York picked up 336 PS3 systems in 2009 and built itself a 53 teraFLOP processing cluster. Once completed as a proof of concept, Air Force researchers then scaled up by a factor of six and went in search of 2,200 more consoles(later scaled back to 1,700). The $663,000 contract was awarded on January 6, 2010, to a small company called Fixstars that could provide 1,700 160GB PS3 systems to the government.
When Sony issued a recent PlayStation 3 updater emoving the device’s ability to install alternate operating systems like Linux, it did so to protect copyrighted content—but several research projects such as this one suffered collateral damage.
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From my limited experience with the PS3, I believe you have the option to deny the “upgrades”. Why the air force would bother installing the upgrades on a perfectly functional cluster is beyond my comprehension. You’d think the press that Sony gets from major projects such as this, they would at least tip the USAF off and tell them to avoid upgrading because of the ill effects it would bring to their cluster.
1700 PS3 systems is a lot! I wonder if the USAF will be auctioning those off now for cheap? :P