Who among us hasn't been asked by a teacher or a boss to "think outside the box"? It's all well and good when you're looking at a word problem on a Denny's application, not so much when you're staring down a problem with lives on the line. So you have to admire the guys who improvised the following:
5Building a Supercomputer Out of Hundreds of PlayStations
The U.S. military needed a supercomputer, but didn't want to spend the millions of dollars they typically cost. That second part may surprise you -- we all tend to assume that the U.S. military is on the cutting edge of all things tech (something to do with having more than a half trillion dollars to spend every year). But they're not just a bunch of big kids buying expensive toys with unlimited budgets -- they have hard choices to make, just like us.
"Nope, no boner flag -- we have our grownup hats on today."
The Creative Solution:
So they bought almost 2,000 Sony PlayStation 3s and hooked them together to see what would happen.
OK, we're being a bit unfair there. Video game consoles have some serious horsepower for the few hundred dollars they cost, so the solution made sense. The Department of Defense's 1,716 PlayStation 3s were formed into the massive computational megamachine known as the "Condor Cluster." This is what it looks like:
Imagine the photorealistic Duke Nukem crotch bulge that thing could generate.
For one-tenth of the cost of a traditional supercomputer, the Condor Cluster is also using one-tenth of a traditional supercomputer's power. But instead of using top secret proprietary technology, the Cluster is open source. It's even been opened up to universities, who are using it to do everything from create artificial neural networks to build models that will prove Einstein's theory of relativity.
They could have saved $4.2 million by shopping on Black Friday.
And here's where the Condor is really creative -- instead of letting one massive machine do all the work you'd expect from one of the world's 40 fastest computers, the system can rearrange its own workload, farming out assignments to idle computers around the world. Not bad for a big-ass pile of kid's toys.
The military is actually famous for this kind of MacGyver thinking, like ...