A story around the InterWebs today about how a collection of computer researchers have been able to create rogue Web certificates got me interested in one side note of how they did it — using a cluster of 200 Sony PlayStation 3 gaming consoles at a special lab in Switzerland (pictured at left). I have written about this before, how the 9-core processors inside the PS3 can be used for very computationally intensive tasks. Indeed, the researchers said in their paper that if they had used ordinary Intel PCs the task would have taken years to complete rather than the days that it took to construct the rogue cert:
“We have found that one PlayStation 3 game console is equivalent to about 40 modern single core processors. The most computationally intensive part of our method required about 3 days of work with over 200 game consoles, which is equivalent to 32 years of computing on a typical desktop computer.”
You can read a more detailed analysis of what they did here by Rich Mogul.
They aren’t the only ones clustering PS3s. The fastest computer in the world uses a custom collection of Cell processors that IBM put together for one of the US national labs. Granted, this isn’t quite the same thing as going down to BestBuy and picking up a console, but you get the idea that there is now more processing power in the graphics engine than the CPU itself of most modern computers. Given the demands that many video games have on redrawing and rendering, this makes sense.