Blunderingly, Sony Nukes PS3 Supercomputing

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Real World Impact, Conclusion

Not all of the researchers we spoke to believe Sony's Other OS restriction is a major problem. When we spoke to Dr. Frank Mueller, the first person to build a PS3 compute cluster, he confirmed that "there is no future to low-cost Cell clusters based on PS3s," but pointed out that researchers are already moving towards OpenCL and GPU computing.

IBM sells second-generation Cell blade severs with vastly improved double-precision floating point performance and NVIDIA is pushing GPU computing, but nothing on the market delivers the same benefits for such a low cost. The situation is made all the more frustrating by the fact that it didn't have to happen. Sony clearly knows who its HPC customers are.  It would have required a minimum amount of effort to earmark a small run of pre-Slim hardware (or a certain batch of PS3 Slims) for HPC researchers.

Sony: So afraid of pirates, they'll screw anyone to save themselves.
Although looking at this fellow, we have to admit, they might have a point.

Alternatively, the company could have continued to make such systems available to college faculty and students who had appropriate ID. Instead, Sony opted to yank the rug out from everyone at the same time, without even bothering to give the HPC folks any warning. Even if the courts eventually rule Sony's removal of Other OS functionality doesn't constitute a breach of California law, there's still something to be said for not alienating a group of customers you openly courted just three years ago.

Our future, God help us.

Gamers, of course, are the ones who will pay for Sony's mistake long term. Don't expect the scientific/HPC community to come rushing as saviors when it comes time for Sony to babble about the PS4—and without the help of this august assemblage, maybe we'll get stuck with games featuring cutting-edge 1987 graphics fidelity. Leisure Suit Larry, here we come.

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