The Best “Video Game” Ever
by Ken Wood on Feb 8, 2010
The Best “Video Game” Ever
Michael Hay and I have posted about Cartesian scaling in a few blogs over the past couple of months. This is yet another Cartesian scaling related blog, but with a little more game. As you know Cartesian scaling is the combination of vertical and horizontal scaling. In the old days, computers storage scaled up with faster single CPU and/or single system speed, or higher single storage capacity. Systems scale-out today with low cost, mostly commodity components by adding “nodes” horizontally for what seems like endless compute or storage capacity. Cartesian scaling incorporates both directions when scaling to meet demands. Vertical scaling currently has major physical limitations, and endless horizontal scaling doesn’t yield linear capacity and trends towards negative TCO well before maximum limitations are approached for all but corner cases.
The PS3 is turning into quite an interesting device. Its PowerPC based cell processor, Cell Broadband Engine (Cell BE), with a general purpose processor core called the Power Processing Element (PPE) that runs the OS and assigns additional application tasks to the 7 (actually 6 as one SPE is dedicated to assisting the PPE with OS tasks) special processing cores called Synergistic Processing Elements (SPE) has turned this gaming console into a powerful high performance computing node in several computational cluster projects.
Quick PS3 specs.
PowerPC-base Core @3.2GHz – the PPE
1 VMX vector unit per core
512KB L2 cache
7 x SPE @3.2GHz – the SPE
7 x 128b 128 SIMD GPRs
7 x 256KB SRAM for SPE
1.8 TFLOPS FP performance
Full HD (up to 1080p) x 2 channels
120GB or 250GB SATA
|General Floating Point performance:
|Total Floating Point Performance:
With its open framework, built-in “run other OS” capability and readily available Linux distros specifically for this machine, and of course its price performance, the PS3 is becoming quite the compute platform for calculation intensive applications for what we feel is the next phase in computing. Visit http://www.ps3cluster.umassd.edu/step1setup.html for steps in how to run Fedora Linux on a PS3. The currently available models that I could find today new at a “brick and mortar” store are based on the amount of disk storage that is configured, being SATA 120GB or 250GB slim consoles.
Capable of 218 giga FLOPS at a cost of $300 for the 120GB console (no games) puts this at a $1.37 per giga FLOPS. Currently, the number 1 and 2 high performance computing systems today (Top500.org November 2009) is the Cray XT5-HE Jaguar at about a cost of $60K per giga FLOPS and the IBM Roadrunner system weighing in at about $120K per giga FLOPs. This is just my rough comparison of the compute costs of different systems as this is not a good “buy this one over that one” recommendation.
The PS3 is limited in the types of applications it can run effectively with a system memory size of only 256MB. I’m wondering what kind of network storage load will be generated when a compute cluster of PS3s are used and sharing data on a NAS device. While I not saying that consumer game console clusters will be running a financial institution’s Monte Carlo simulations or derivatives trading applications tomorrow in the enterprise, the programming and computing architecture suggests some rethinking of how our computers are designed, built and how we use them will be.
Some projects currently using the PS3 in compute intensive clusters are listed here,
o With the help of the computing power of over half a million PlayStation 3 consoles, the distributed computing project Folding@Home has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the most powerful distributed network in the world. http://folding.stanford.edu/.
o The US Air Force is upgrading an existing 300+ node PS3 cluster to over 2000 nodes. Its nickname, “500 TeraFLOP Heterogeneous Cluster” suggests that there will be about 2300 nodes at 218 Giga FLOPS each. http://videogames.yahoo.com/events/plugged-in/u-s-air-force-building-supercomputer-from-ps3s/1387199. This system is attempting to simulate the way the human brain processes information and how it pulls off the remarkably difficult task of recognizing the content of images.
o Gravity Grid is a small PS3 cluster use to crunch data in the hunt for Black Holes at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth http://gravity.phy.umassd.edu/ps3.html.
o And of course, the ultimate game, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@Home. http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/. Winning this game means your home system found ET and being the first to do this would warrant some major techno-kudos. This may be man kind’s best game ever.
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