US Air Force research hit by Other OS

Its cluster of 2000 PS3s can't be replaced.

Ars Technica reports that the United States Air Force is among the customers upset by Sony's decision to remove Other OS support from PS3s to improve security.

A USAF research lab in Rome, New York has bought no less than 2000 PS3s to link together into a high performance processing cluster, which can only be achieved by installing alternative operating systems on the machines.

An initial project to connect 336 PS3s together into a 53 teraFLOP cluster last year was followed by a decision to buy 1700 more consoles, since the lab discovered that PS3s provided more computing power per dollar than anything else it tested. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on the consoles.

Although it has no need to update its machines with the new PS3 firmware that denies Other OS support, the Air Force Research Laboratory is disappointed that it now cannot replace broken machines from its cluster, or have them repaired by Sony.

"We will have to continue to use the systems we already have in hand," the lab told Ars.

"This will make it difficult to replace systems that break or fail. The refurbished PS3s also have the problem that when they come back from Sony, they have the firmware... and it will not allow Other OS, which seems wrong.

"We are aware of class-action lawsuits against Sony for taking away this option on systems that used to have it," added the USAF scientists.

There are a number of other PS3 clusters in academic use that will be similarly hit. "It's highly plausible that the raw computing power-per-dollar that the PS3 offers is significantly higher than anything else on the market today," said physicists at the University of Massachusetts.

Only now, no-one can get at it any more.

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