PS3, the Newest Appliance?

Arthur Cole

When the news first started surfacing that some vendors were touting the Sony Playstation 3 as a networked server device, my first reaction was, "Why the hell would anyone want to do that?"


But like those Ginsu knife commercials on late-night cable TV, the more I heard about it, the more sense it started to make. After all, it uses a 64-bit Cell processor running at 3.2 GHz and sports 256 MB of main memory. That puts it at the level of a G5 PowerMac, which makes it a nifty little appliance.


But can even the most killer gaming system really play a useful role in the enterprise?


A German company called Helios thinks so. It just released a customized PS3 version of Linux that is powerful enough to run the Helios UB enterprise server, formerly reserved for the likes of the IBM Blade Server and Xserve. It achieved this feat using a stripped-down version of Yellow Dog Linux that provides extremely low overhead while still offering things like Java 1.5 and enhanced AppleTalk.


Already, there's a smattering of PS3s in professional settings. The University of Tennessee's Innovative Computing Laboratory, for one, has a four-system cluster offering 600 gigaflops at a cost of about $2,400. And Stanford University has networked more than 30,000 PS3s to crunch numbers when the gamer is idle.


I guess my initial surprise on hearing about enterprise-class PS3s was due to the fact that for years I'd been hearing about the prowess of gaming systems, but there was very little to show for it outside the graphics realm. Now, finally, there is a solid piece of hardware capable of handling enterprise-class applications. It may not be a universal solution, but it sounds like something that could fit right in with many established enterprises.

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May 30, 2007 7:56 AM Grover Grover  says:
The big ticket for the PS3 is the Cell processor. As a data cruncher, you cant buy anything that comes near it - 256 GFlops is about 10x the processing power you can get in a big server system. If companies make good use of the huge capabilities of the SPU's in the Cell, then things like Databases, WebServers, Simulators and Render farms will all benefit from something like a PS3 commodity device - imagine that, rather than 20K to change over a server, less than 1K... theres definitely something in this. Reply
May 30, 2007 8:40 AM Keith Keith  says:
This model works because you're getting Sony to subsidize the hardware for you. (though I imagine the Blu-Ray drive is largely irrelevant for these duties.) Sony helped pay for the design and productionzation of the Cell, and is footing part of the cost of every PS3 sold for these purposes.In truth, if this type of use for the PS3 becomes huge, it will be a disaster financially for Sony. The PS3's sold for computing purposes will not have games or movie software attached to them (i.e. games and movies won't be purchased for them.) Thus, the loss Sony incurs making these boxes, won't ever be recouped from the purchasers who use them for computing jobs. Reply
May 30, 2007 9:04 AM lUIS lUIS  says:
Well i think that the ps3 is going to kick asses the asses of nintendo and the ones of microsoft, hell yeah!!!!!! Ps3 for life the best gaming system ever launched Reply
May 30, 2007 9:44 AM Me Me  says:
A disaster? Don't be foolish. Sony needs to sell the already produced PS3s. Besides, there won't be more PS3s for enterprises than those for gamers and videophiles. Also, Sony will take down costs to actually make a profit on every PS3 sold. Besides, I'm sure Stanford didn't buy 30,000 PS3s from Wal-mart. Maybe they got them from Sony, and at the actual cost of manufacturing or higher. Reply
May 30, 2007 11:32 AM Pete Pete  says:
@me (above)It's a fair point, not a foolish one that if a trend of purchasing PS3s for non gaming purposes only, COULD be a disaster for Sony who need a high game attach rate to make a profit on their under priced hardware.If Sony is to have any chance of sucess it will need a substantial price cut very soon and seeing as it already loses more than $200 per unit, it will be many years before they have a chance to break even on hardware sales, let alone make a profit on it.Also Stanford University does NOT own 30,000 PS3 consoles, the article is referring to a scheme called folding@home where owners volunteer their PS3s when not in use, to assist in protein folding.Before you call somebody elses comments foolish you should at least know what your talking about. Reply
Jun 8, 2007 2:18 AM Rich Rich  says:
Does the battered wife syndrome exist in IT forums as well as the gaming forums. I am reading these posts that look like the sony fan boys who have the battered wives syndrome. Sony needs to sell games, not consoles. Sony is not in any way shape or form a customer oriented company. When are people going to learn that Sony does not care 1 bit about its customers and their technology is over priced and becomes outdated as fast as anyones, if not faster. Reply
Oct 3, 2008 9:55 AM ps3 bundle ps3 bundle  says:
I use linux on my ps3 and don't really have any use a pc any more, so if anything is going to be affected it is pc sales, when people realise they can have a fully fuctioning desktop on their ps3, the only problem is it is very complicated to set up to most people, and most people don't even realise that linux exists for the ps3! Reply

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