I found this story on a blog by the editors of Foreign Policy magazine. Some highlights:
Over the weekend, a video game system became the heart of the most powerful supercomputer on earth. As I write this, Playstation 3 game consoles all over the world are working together to power through 493 trillion calculations per second in a group effort to find cures for Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s Disease, Mad Cow Disease, and several forms of cancer. To put that into perspective, IBM’s Blue Gene, considered to be the fastest unclassified supercomputer, reportedly maxes out at 367 trillion calculations per second. And the Playstation 3 cluster is still growing.
Adding in all OSes, it’s up to 645 terraflops now. Yowsa!
Stocked with seven processors, all tuned to perform heavy number crunching, the Playstation 3 puts the average single-processor PC to shame. (All that computing power is also using quite a bit of energy, but that’s another story.)
Here’s a link to the Folding@Home site at Stanford and here is a table of current data from there (as of Tuesday morning, March 27):
OS Type Current TFLOPS* Active CPUs
Windows 157 164531
Mac OS X/PowerPC 7 9029
Mac OS X/Intel 10 3328
Linux 44 25630
GPU 47 794
Playstation 3 381 29073
Total 646 232385
So here’s a table of my own data – I broke out my calculator to figure out MFLOPS per CPU:
Windows PC: 0.954 MFLOPS per CPU
Mac OS X/PowerPC: 0.775 MFLOPS per CPU
Mac OS X/Intel: 3.004 MFLOPS per CPU
Linux: 1.717 MFLOPS per CPU
GPU: 59.194 MFLOPS per CPU
PS3: 13.105 MFLOPS per CPU
Fascinating, isn’t it? Lots of analysis could be done on that data, but I’ll just focus on just one: with hundreds of thousands of computational data points to factor into the comparison, the PS3 video game console CPU is nearly 14 times as powerful as the average PC CPU running Windows today, and nearly 17 times as fast as the average PowerPC Mac CPU. Not bad for a game machine?