Jordan - the country, not the model - has unveiled a 25-teraflop supercomputer based on Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) hardware.
The IMAN1 computer had its first public outing at the MENA ICT Forum in Amman last week, unveiled by Zaid Abudayeh, an engineer at Jordanian IT consulting company Al Oula. The purpose of the project was to make a supercomputer at an economical price, he said.
"This project embodies the Jordanian spirit of accomplishing great projects with limited resources and making the impossible possible," said Abudayeh at the presentation.
The computer was made from 2,260 Sony PS3 games consoles, which are powered by the Power4-based Cell Broadband Engine Architecture (CBEA) microprocessor designed by Sony, Toshiba and IBM, which also manufactured the units, and uses PowerPC-series microprocessors in its Unix servers.
The CBEA runs at 3.2GHz, peaking at around 230 gigaflops, with a 550MHz NVIDIA G70 graphics processing units (GPUs) running alongside it. The PS3 was launched in 2005.
However, the IMAN1, at 25 teraflops, does not make it into the top-500 most powerful supercomputers, according to HPCWire, nor is it entirely original. The US Air Force's Air Force Research Laboratory built a PS3-based supercomputer in 2009 from 1,760 CBEA microprocessors and 168 GPUs, which helped to push performance to an estimated 500 teraflops. It cost some $2m (£1.35m) to make.
According to HPCWire, the introduction of gameOS digital rights management (DRM) firmware to the PS3 in 2010 put paid to a number of supercomputer projects as the DRM measures made it impossible to run Linux in clusters of PS3 consoles. It's unclear how IMAN1 has circumvented these controls.
Its designers, though, claim that it does offer "one of the best price-performance ratios of any HPC system in the world". The project was started in January 2010 and turned on in October 2011 and is now in use at a Jordanian university.
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