Apparently the Department of defence believes that PS3 consoles are a better value for supercomputer clusters than IBM products specifically designed for the purpose. Though the recent price drop probably didn't hurt in justifying a 2,200 console order.
This isn't the first time that the DoD is using PS3 consoles for supercomputing. In fact, these 2,200 units are going to be added to an existing Linux cluster of 336 PS3s used by the United States Air Force. According to Justification Review Documents, the purchase is all about getting the best value out the DoD's budget:
With respect to cell processors, a single 1U server configured with two 3.2GHz cell processors can cost up to $US8K while two Sony PS3s cost approximately $US600. Though a single 3.2 GHz cell processor can deliver over 200 GFLOPS, whereas the Sony PS3 configuration delivers approximately 150 GFLOPS, the approximately tenfold cost difference per GFLOP makes the Sony PS3 the only viable technology for HPC applications.
I'm all for balancing cost and features, but isn't it just a bit curious that someone thought to save on upgrading the supercomputer just after Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released? [Ars Technica via Boing Boing]