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December 9, 2009

Military purchases 2,200 PS3s

Posted: 11:14 AM ET

It seems generous grandmothers aren't the only ones purchasing PlayStation 3 (PS3) consoles this holiday season. The U.S. Dept. of Defense has announced plans to buy an additional 2,200 PS3s to complement a military supercomputer cluster running on 336 PS3 systems.

The military purchase was likely encouraged by Sony's recent PS3 price cut, which brought the price of a single console down to $299.

A military justification of review document explains the decision:

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.

According to Ars Technica, Sony sells the PS3 at a loss and hopes to make back the difference by selling games and accessories.

The reason that the PS3 is a more cost-effective way to buy Cell-powered GFLOPS than, say, the Cell blades that IBM actually makes specifically for supercomputing applications, is that the consoles come with a big, fat subsidy from Sony.

However, the military isn't likely to purchase any games for these PlayStations. The justification review states the systems will run a proprietary Linux-based operating system, which probably won't be able to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

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Filed under: consumer tech • Games • Gaming

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Teddy   December 12th, 2009 12:21 pm ET

hardly surprising. gaming platforms these days are so ridiculously powerful. Many universities are using ps3's as a supercomputer platform.

James Waaramaa   December 12th, 2009 2:47 pm ET

1 ps3 is 1% as powerful as a brain. maybe pentagon has found a way to link them all together to form a super pc?!

Brendan   December 12th, 2009 6:46 pm ET

The military has always been prudent with our money. Its the politicians and interest groups that waste money. They need to feed their people to keep their power.

If we were told that the DOD was doing this under the Bush administration and not Obama, the left would be up in arms. And fyi, the money that multi-national corporations goes to their HQ home country, if GM makes money over seas it doesn't go directly to China even though the Chinese own most of our debt by purchasing bonds, which when they expire we pay out. It's called the Time-flow of money bro, and a dollar today is going to be worth $2 tomorrow.

purewebdev   December 12th, 2009 8:47 pm ET

I'm going to put linux on my ps3 as well. I'd been meaning to do it for a while. This way, I'll have full flash and multimedia support for things that the ps3 doesn't currently support. Some type of live linux that I don't have to install would be good.

albert g.   December 12th, 2009 10:20 pm ET

and not forgetting they can easily transport these innocent looking ps3 into war zone (each chosen soldiers are given the task to bring with them 1 ps3 )and link them up together and use it as the core /supercomputer of their portable command center when in need or it can be a distributed command center..........or.... Distributed and Integrated Defense System:) ...

lurking   December 13th, 2009 5:07 am ET

Wow, always amazing to see all the clueless comments on a technology article. Some of you get it, but the rest...oy, thanks for sharing the dumb.

Dennis   December 13th, 2009 10:29 am ET

I would venture to answer Sandra's question like this – none.
I spent 20 years in the military and I have to say, the last 13 years in civilian life has been a disappointment. I have to add, I'm living in Western Europe, not the US. From what I've seen, the military's accountability is several levels above civilian life in general. Ethics aside, the Army assumed the worst in people and left little to chance as a consequence. I think most mismanagement and misappropriation occurred at government levels outside the military (even though it's 'military' spending. Less oversight.
And now that this purchase has been made so public, lots of people are going to try and make sure nothing goes wrong on their watch.
CYA may not be noble, but it sure can be effective.

reznil   December 13th, 2009 11:55 am ET

Lets look at wattage usage: about 200 watts per console, 2,536 consoles total, equals 507,200 watts! At about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour (average DC-area industrial rate) equals $55 an hour to run, or about $40,000 per month.

STERLING   December 13th, 2009 5:46 pm ET

So many ps3's yet i bet some of them will end up in someone's house for their kids or something and why would they go as far as mentioning call of duty modern warfare2 lol

Simply Reg   December 13th, 2009 8:51 pm ET

So the next war would be XBOX nets vs PS3 nets? LOL

Esmilio   December 13th, 2009 11:58 pm ET

"the systems will run a proprietary Linux-based operating system"

This does not imply its pre installed on the ps3's. Pretty sure it means the military is going to Wipe it and load their own software onto it...

lazywoodson   December 14th, 2009 9:55 am ET

y dont they just use xboxes insted of ps3s

ryan   December 14th, 2009 10:52 am ET

Why did they purchase 2,200, and plan to purchase an additional 2,200, when they only need 336 for the Super Computer cluster?


Sean.T   December 14th, 2009 2:25 pm ET

I wonder what Sony is planning next. The business model for the PS3 (as well as almost every other console) is to give away the hardware and make money selling games. With the DOD pulling the hardware off of the game playing market someone in marketing at Sony must be beating their head against the wall.

Anonymous   December 14th, 2009 8:21 pm ET

These are some of the most idiotic and stupid comments I have ever read on any gaming topic. Other than the comment by SGM, all of your comments should be deleted; these are all just ignorant. Lame.

Mike B   December 14th, 2009 10:46 pm ET


The document linked in this article seems to indicate they will be purchasing full systems (bundled – with Uncharted – Drake's Fortune) with 160G HD and DualShock3 wireless controller. This is based on this part number listed:
"Procurement of 2,200 Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) 160GB Console Systems, Part Number: 98038"

google the sony part # !!

Maybe you'll see the controllers sold off by the GAO as surplus. And what a waste of the BD players. I doubt that they will dismantle the console, as they want the supplier to handle the 1 yr warrantee from Sony! It seems they are insisting on this model based on the 336 unit cluster (53 Tflop) that was the pilot and what the development was done on. This saves time and $$ on porting, and re-development.

The article further specifies that they are planning a 2116 unit cluster – which I figure to be about 330 Tflops – so I guess they're gonna have some spares, or enough for another small cluster for testing software changes. (or maybe Presents for the Staff?)

Based on the numbers quoted, it doesn't seem that they are bothering to use the GPU power in available processing, but are just using the (7) SPE cores. Networking the GPUs might be part of the issue. Well worth the effort if someone could figure out how to overlay networked GPUs as another supercomputer on top of the main SPE cell cluster.

The power, space and cooling is what's the killer on this deal. All those Power Supplies and powered up circuitry they don't need are going to cost dearly. I don't know how long they plan to run this supercomputer, but I suspect that the $ invested in the IBM blades might pay itself back in power, cooling and space over a relatively short period of time.

I just wish I was the retailer selling these to the govt.

Dude - Get a brain   December 15th, 2009 2:30 am ET

They use PS3's for the network because commercially written software is already available for networking Cell based processor networks. Rumor has it the PS3's being supplied lack a Bios chip, Blueray drive, Hard drive, all cables (except power) and controller, possibly not even the case as rack mount adapters are available. As for people who mention about increasing the ram, obviously they have no idea on how parallel processing works. 256mb is more than ample, and most network computers used much less. In reality if you need more than a few megabytes per system, you are running servers and not creating a super computer. They are buying just the mother boards silly boys and girls.

Let_Chaos_Reign   December 15th, 2009 12:41 pm ET

No respawns in real life!

John   December 15th, 2009 6:14 pm ET

Exactly. The DOD isn't going to be buying video games. They just want the motherboard and processor.

Actually this is a pretty smart move by the United States: the U.S. military expands its war-driving supercomputer at the expense of the Japanese manufacturer Sony. Sony subsidizes the PS3 to keep the hardware costs down and in the range of most consumers.

Lets Flow » The 404 Podcast 486: Where Bonnie is not Nicole   December 15th, 2009 11:07 pm ET

[...] videogaming news, the Pentagon is buying up 2,200 PlayStation 3s. No, they aren't using it to train soldiers with "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare [...]

Bryan   December 16th, 2009 1:58 am ET

I didn't think the new redesigned PS3's could run Linux. Is the Military buying older ones? The pic shows 60GB stations so maybe. lol..still, pretty cool.

Nick   December 16th, 2009 10:04 am ET

I think it is pretty neat that military is using this type of technology, i was never a fan of the PS3, I have always been a XBOX user from Day one. Perhaps the Military is not aware that the XBOX 360 is being used by doctors to help detect heart defects:,8599,1925332,00.html

Michael S.   December 16th, 2009 11:26 am ET

The DoD isn't worried if the new models won't run Linux, because I would think they are buying the PS3 to harvest the parts, to integrate into their existing server racks. That's my guess, but if a 200 gigaflop processor is 4000 USD, then I would buy the PS3 too. (a PS3 is $2 US per gigaflop. Tenfold of that, $20 US. 200 gflops x $20 = $4000 US per GFlop.) That is wise spending by the DoD. Buy the $300 node, scrap the $4000 node.

Jacen   December 16th, 2009 4:25 pm ET

I'm glad the boys and girls of the armed forces have a device which can play games that can distract the depressed mind into virtual alternative worlds! Maybe we'll begin making our own gmaing machines which are less disgusting and more reminding of positive or non-violent or sexist themed video games filled with temptation. Hopefully they will have fun with their modable devices anyway. Most likely outside viruses like the virus enemies of the War in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are already using on US computers to see everyday life will now target PS3s and PS3 operating systems or logic boards. That would be too bad if hundreds of children had their X-Mas toys broken because of the War in the middle East, I guess we could all loose something special because of the War, a childs happiness via a 200x computer (compared to an 87 Atari) or more souls in the War that can be stopped but how can we even celebrate while other people are dying by the score for revenge for New York with no target or plans to ever stop the killing. Makes you wonder if other animals evolved if they would be as war like or use technology to scar the Earth during hopelessness, one way or another a virus isn't going to help the soul of the sun or the "Mayan* synchronistic Intergalactic Sol or God, only cause more spiritual pain, like not listening to the suffering of Robert Johnson at the crossroads, there has to be a way to change, we can't pay for our leader's mistakes. Neither a virus or a virus can stop the war machine, only a mass protest (neverendin) that might never be over is as applaudable option for the powerless or helpless here with Earth. Or maybe a computer class that has to work for your computer to work educating on the dangers of war in the middle East or elseware. Or maybe a nicE vudeo game that could encourage bringing home the Army and helping rebuild the temples and shrines and schools and houses in thoses areas we have demolished in the past 8 years, but we can't give them an extra life. Have they been forbidden to witness the comming miracle by our foriegn government? Twas as tricky as passing nuclear waste between Canada and Us.

danworkstopayforthisstuff   December 16th, 2009 7:58 pm ET

DOD bargain shopping? That's a new one...

Steve J   December 17th, 2009 12:56 am ET

For all those who don't know (and keep wildly guessing), these are older 160GB PS3 models that used to only be available in bundle packages.

They run Linux (as long as there's a PPC distro) and are being used in clusters all over the place (Sony even runs the WARHAWK online servers on them). They ARE NOT being salvaged for parts, 'custom units' or other idiotic nonsense people keep making up on here.

Su4v3   December 17th, 2009 1:17 pm ET

Don't be stupid PEOPLE! They're not buying video games, they're buying computers! It's cheaper then if they buy a "conventional" computer!

The Chris   December 17th, 2009 1:25 pm ET

I wonder how the Japanese government feels about one of its company's products being used to make war. We have embargoes on tech products being shipped to other countries so they don't use them for military purposes.

MGrant   December 21st, 2009 7:44 am ET

Hey, can somebody build me a PS3-based computer? I'd pay for this!!!! I don't need anything spectaular, just the OS installed on the hardrive and ports so I can connect peripherals...any help?!

The Reader   December 21st, 2009 8:58 am ET

These comments are worse than Youtube comments, in terms of idiotic statements. The comment section of these articles are pointless now that "uniformed" people write about things they have no idea about. It's like a 5 year old kid giving a lecture on human ethics.

l_dopa   December 21st, 2009 10:04 am ET

The military could just buy the processors for the super computing. What do they need the whole console for?? Perhaps so they can use them as simulators?

SILENT_WARIOR   December 21st, 2009 11:05 am ET


Spooly-T   December 21st, 2009 11:14 am ET

Sony and Microsoft both sell consoles at a lost.

Sony is willing to sell PS3 at a lost because it's investing/betting on winning the Blu-Ray format war.

All I know is everyone I know w/ Xbox360 is on their 2nd or 3rd. I still have same PS3 and it does everything I need.

How can something that has such high failure rate be a better product? Does these folks feel the same when it come to airlines crashing planes?

Smart Kid's Parent   December 23rd, 2009 12:52 am ET

Hand picked smart kids, about 2190, with fast fingers, like my 9 year old, will be given these consoles this Christmas so they can, on their own, learn to control the drones and bring them baddies down. No cost to the mil. in'll have fun and make em big Santa fans.

Have a Very Merry Christmas you all and stay warm.

God bless America and let there be peace, love, beauty, fragrance and music.

Joe   January 20th, 2010 5:15 pm ET

I don't know what to say to most of you. Anybody that runs dedicated servers for anything, whether it be websites, databases, supercomputing, or even games, knows that a Playstation 3 console is the way to go. This is simply because the PS3 does exactly what a $10,000 server does for $299. Maybe you all should look at facts before you post your random idiotic comments about something you know nothing about. The Playstation 3 not only comes with the ability to play games, but also has a proprietary Linux build. This Linux build can be used for any kind of server the military or private corporation would need. Get facts before you speak so you don't look like donkeys. I guess I would complain that they're saving my tax dollars by spending $299 per console rather than $10,000 per server box. SHAME ON YOU FOR SAVING MY TAX DOLLARS!

And a reply to Spooly-T:

The fact of the matter is that Xbox has many more Xbox specific series' that are better than anything Sony has. My point being proved by the fact that Final Fantasy is now no longer a Sony specific game. And why do you think people keep replacing their Xbox? Because it's awful? Ok, you also need to think before you speak friend.

rick   January 29th, 2010 10:02 pm ET

Come on Redstorm.....if not for the gop their wouldnt be much of a military...all of your tax dollars would go to welfare instead....which you would be on because you would be unemployed!

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Marc   September 2nd, 2010 5:58 am ET

That's an interesting approach to save money on hardware. I never thought you could use consoles like the PS3 to actually build a cluster of super-computers.

At first I thought it must have been a trick to conceal that the army buys game consoles for their soldiers but since they don't buy any games it must be the real deal.

Best regards

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המחיר הוא פקטור חשוב ולגיטימי לרצות להוזיל את עלות ההעברה, אבל חשוב לדעת כי לא אחת כאשר הכסף הופך לשיקול מרכזי – הבחירה עלולה להיות שגויה. אם אתם רוצים לוודא כי תכולת הבית הוא המשרד יישמרו בשלמותם ולא יינזקו, ודאי תזדקקו לשירות הובלות של חברה מקצועית ואמינה, שבידי בעליה רישיונות ואישורים נדרשים לביצוע ההובלה. אתם ודאי תרצו לדעת כי אתם מפקידים רכוש יקר, אשר יש בו, כמשוער וכצפוי, פריטים שונים שלא יסולאו בפז, בידי מי שאמונים ומיומנים בביצוע הובלות ללא דופי וללא פשרות.

כמו בעל ענף גם לענף זה חודרים לא אחת שרלטנים הפועלים ללא אישורים נדרשים, עם ציוד לא מתאים לאריזה ולהובלה, בהעדר ידע כיצד לפרוק את התכולה. חאפרים אלה יימנעו בטענות שונות מחתימה על חוזה, הימנעות אשר היא כשלעצמה אמורה להדליק אצלכם את נוריות האזהרה כי מדובר באנשים אשר הגדרת ם כלא מקצועיים היא לשון המעטה שעושה עמם חסד.

מקצוענים בתחום הובלות יתנו לכם אחריות, יעגנו את ההובלה בחוזה מוסכם. יסדירו את נושא הביטוח. כאשר אתם בוחרים חברה מוצדק ולגיטימי לחלוטין לבקש המלצות עליה. אל תהססו לשאול אנשים שהסתייעו בשירותיה. ניתן ללמוד דברים חשובים גם ממי שהיו שבעי רצון ובכל זאת יכולים לתרום לכם מניסיונם כך שתוכלו להימנע מטעויות שהם עשו.

כאשר אתם חותמים חוזה הובלה יש להידרש לשורה של סעיפים ובהם: לוח זמנים וקביעת פיצוי ע חריגה ממנו, רישיון, זמינות, ותק, אפשרות לבצע הובלה בשעות לא שגרתיות ועוד. אגב, אם אתם יכולים לשלוט במועד ההובלה ולתזמן אותו למועד הנוח לכם, חשוב שתבררו את הפרשי המחירים בין העונות השונות. בקיץ על פי רוב המחירים מאמירים.

ביקור בית

מקצועיותה של חברה נמדדת בדברים הקטנים אבל החשובים. השתדלו לקבוע פגישה עם נציג של חברת ההובלה בביתכם, כדי שיוכל לאמוד את השטח ואת הציוד שיידרש לביצוע ההובלה. ביקור מקדים חשוב בעיקר כאשר דרך הגישה אל הדירה קשה או כאשר היא ממוקמת בקומה גבוהה בבניין דירות וכוללת ציוד אשר ייתכן כי יידרש מנוף להעברתו. חשוב ללמוד את השטח מבעוד מועד ובכך להקל הן על המוביל והן עליכם.

הובלות, כאמור הן עולם מלא. דברים רבים עלולים להשתבש במהלך ההובלה ואף לפניה, לכן חשוב להיערך מבעוד מועד לכל מצב אפשרי. מאחר שדברים רבים יכולים – עשויים או בעיקר עלולים – להתרחב במעבר מנקודה א' לנקודה ב', חשוב לעגן את כל הסעיפים הכרוכים בדרך כלל בהובלת תכולה של בית או משרד בחוזה חתום.

אנחנו לא מתחייבים להוריד לכם את הירח מהשמים (בינינו, לא עדיף שיישאר במקומו?) אבל כל מה שקשור להובלה מקצועית, על ידי אנשי מקצוע מאומנים בהובלות, יש לנו ידע וניסיון וקבלות מוכחות על ביצוע הובלות ללא דופי, לשביעות רצונם המלאה של הלקוחות.

שאלות על הובלות

אתם נמצאים במקום ובזמן שבו טבעי ולגיטימי לשאול כל שאלה שעולה על דעתכם. לפני שמתחיל תהליך הזמנת ההובלה יש זמן מספיק (אלא עם הובלה חייבת להתבצע בנוהל מקצור ואולי אף באופן מיידי, לאלתר) לשאול את כל השאלות שעולות על דעתכם. אין שאלות מיותרות או טיפשיות, ודאי לא כאשר מדובר בכסף שלכם. לגיטימי לשאול גם על אופן ההובלה והאם ניתן להוזיל את עלותה בדרך זו או אחרת.

חשוב להבין כי האינטרס של הלקוח ושל חברת ההובלה הוא אינטרס משותף. שני הצדדים רוצים שההובלה תתבצע באופן המהיר ביותר, ביסודיות ובמקצועיות; שלא יינזק דבר ולא יאבד; שכאשר עוברים בית כל התכולה המועברת תועבר בשלמותה, תיפרק מהמשאית בזהירות ושהבית או המשרד החדש ירוהטו ויצוידו בציוד שהועבר.

הובלות ניתן לתכנן ולבצע כמעט בכל זמן, אבל אם חשוב לכם שההובלה המתוכננת תיעשה במועד מסוים – רצוי לתאם אותה מבעוד מועד. סביר להניח כי אינכם הלקוחות היחידים של חברת ההובלות, במיוחד כאשר מדובר בחברה מקצועית ואטרקטיבית, אשר הביקוש לשירותיה גבוה. לא רק אתם, מתברר, רוצים להסתייע בשירותם של הטובים ביותר.

הובלה בראש שקט

אנשים רבים עוברים ממקום למקום ונזקקים להובלות. חברות רבות מציעות שירות. דווקא בשל הזמינות של החברות הרבות קל "ליפול" על חברה לא מקצועית או כזאת שאינה ערוכה לספק לכם את השירות המבוקש. לכן חשוב לחזור ולהדגיש לקראת סיום המאמר מה שנכתב בתחילתו ובאמצעו: חשוב לברר היטב מי היא החברה המיועדת מבחינתכם לבצע את ההובלה. זו זכותכם ובמידה רבה זו חובתכם.

נ.ב. חפצי ערך יקרים במיוחד (הן מבחינה כספית והן מבחינה רגשית) רצוי לשמור אצלכם ולהעבירם ברכב הפרטי שלכם, כאשר הם צמודים אליכם בכל משך הנסיעה, מאחר שתמיד קיים חשש שמא משהו יילך לאיבוד.

בשורה התחתונה: הובלות כרוכות במאמץ, באחריות , במקצועית ולא אחת גם בכאב ראש. נשמח לפטור אתכם מה כאב הטורדני הזה.

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