Thursday, January 4, 2007
So, can you do Super Computing on a PS/3? Well, people have been evaluating the Cell processor for scientific computing. The results are impressive. So, 0.2 teraflop per second (single precision)... is that super computing?
My day job is Virtual Reality Engineer at the Dutch Super Computing centre SARA. Currently, we have two SGI super computers running at our centre. The older one is a MIPS based machine from the year 2000 (see photo) that fills up a large room. It is comprised of 1024 processors, and at the time of installation, peaked at 1 teraflop/s. Going by the standards of the year 2000, the PS3 is basically a super computer in a very small form factor. The SGI had a 1 Terabyte shared memory though, whereas the PS3 features a mere 256 Mbyte. But what is really impressive, is the fact that the Cell processor can deliver this 0.2 teraflop/s using merely 40 Watt electrical power.
The real challenge here, is to unlock all that power. With the Cell processor, the parallel programming is a very low-level and explicit affair. I'm really anxious to see if I can get some performance out of the processor, using GNU/Linux.