Thursday, March 6, 2008
Air Force buying PS3s
I read in yesterday's news that the US Air Force is looking to buy 300 PS3s. Funny quips aside, this is probably a smart thing to do. Why is buying a video game console for military use a smart idea? The Cell Broadband Engine (BE) chip in each of those PS3s is an extremely powerful processing platform. It has proven itself to be a processing powerhouse in applications like encryption/decryption, signal processing, physics simulation, and modelling protein folding for medical research. Its combination of multi-threading power, triple buffering, and rediculous memory bandwidth are perfect for performing lots of calculations on lots of data. If you want to buy a Cell BE chip, you can go through vendors such as Mercury Computer Systems and spend 10s of thousands on hardware alone to get up and running, then thousands more on training per developer. Alternatively, you can buy PS3s for a few hundred dollars each, download an open source OS and developer tools for free, and start exploring their potential right away for a much lower price. I looked into this for accelerating physics simulations run at my office and, were we to go the Cell route, that would be the way to start.