US Air Force: “Sony Has Abandoned Us”


The US Air Force is less than pleased with Sony for removing the PS3’s Linux support, although unlike most Sony critics it does actually use the OtherOS feature, in a supercomputing cluster of PS3s which it complains is now doomed by a lack of replacement units.

The US Air Force Research Laboratory built a 53 teraflop cluster of 336 PS3s in 2009 by way of a test, and then added a further 1,700 PS3s in early 2010 after being satisfied with the results. It claims the PS3 cluster solution is much cheaper than the conventional alternatives.

The Air Force Research Laboratory now publicly laments the decision by Sony to remove Linux support, as although it does not connect to the PlayStation Network or use games, it does make it impossible to replace broken units:

“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 (gameOS) 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.”

Sony’s supposed advertising of such alternative usages of the PS3 has been mentioned in the lawsuit, so the Air Force may yet find itself drawn into the fray.

Sony for its part is probably happy to be rid of its research customers – console hardware is usually sold at a loss, with profits coming from software sales, so from Sony’s perspective cluster users are little better than parasites taking advantage of its subsidised Cell processors.

The PR benefits of such usage may well be vastly outweighed by the cost of such subsidies.

Equally, cheapskate research institutes cobbling together supercomputers from subsidised home consoles are hardly in a position to complain – on the contrary, the Air Force appears happy to suck up the loss and has no intention of stopping with the PS3:

“The gaming and graphics market continues to push the state of the art and lowers the cost of High Performance Computing, FLOPS/WATTS per dollar. This is important for embedded HPC, our area of expertise.

The HPC environment is rapidly changing; leveraging technology that is subsidized by large consumer markets will always have large cost advantages.

This gives us the experience (lesson learned) to develop HPC with low-cost hardware, benefitting the tax payer, Air Force, Air Force Research Lab while utilizing limited DoD budgets.”

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    Comment by Anonymous
    01:10 15/05/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    That was the first thing that came to my mind when they announced they were taking out the OS ability.

    Oh well, every employee gets a PS3?

    It's still funny how the machines are good for everything except gaming.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:01 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    They don't really need to sell gutted PS3s, but they can justify the R&d costs on the cell a bit if they start making low cost modular supercomputing clusters with it. I'd say design a small box that stacks with its brethren kinda like a lego brick, and lets you treat the whole cluster as one machine.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:17 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Fuck the USAF. Sorry, Sony has not abandoned you. They, a legitimate business, closed a door which you, personally, exploited to cost them as much as $60,000 in lost revenue which will never be made up because you are not subsidizing the cost of their hardware through the purchase of their software.

    You also had a budget of $160.5 billion (that's with a B, folks) and are complaining about the cost of building a supercluster which, if it cost $200,000 to create from scratch, would be 0.000001246% of your allocated funding or 0.0013% of the cost of a single F-22A.

    And you're seriously complaining about a business taking steps to protect an investment and prevent piracy of games?

    Get over yourselves.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:55 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The USAF never said sony had abandoned them, thats just Artefacts added spin to the article.

    Sony did not close a door anywhere. It was Sony's decision to subsidise their PS3s, no exploitaion was going on, its perfectly legal.

    The entire airforce has a budget of 160.5 billion, not some random division of it. They didnt complain about the cost of building the supercluster, they were in fact happy that with the PS3 method, they got to save taxpayer dollars.

    They did not seriously complain about a business taking steps to protect an investment. They complained about a business removing an advertised feature that now prevents them from replacing units in their supercomputing cluster.

    You get over yourself, shit happens, neither side is at fault.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:47 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    There is also the black budgets. Your don't really think they pay $300 for a toilet seat or $1900 hammers.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:03 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Which is exactly what they are doing with OtherOS. Why are they even responding if firmware 3.3 will never even touch their PS3s.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:12 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Displaying a red ring.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:22 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah, because it's not like the USAF has a 160.5 billion dollars for their budget, which goes towards aircraft which cost 150 million dollars.

    Clearly, Sony is abandoning them when they decide to limit the ability for research companies to be subsidized by Sony's sales division. Simply put, buying a console that costs $500 to make and paying $300 at 2,000 consoles means that while yes, you paid $60,000, Sony paid $40,000 for your shiny new supercomputer.

    Which you will never pay them back through the sale of games for their console.

    Is it any surprise that Sony sees money being hemorrhaged by console sales not backed by software sales and does something to close that gap?

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:35 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It does not matter. Sony offered a product for sale. They promised a certain level of performance. Now they want to back out of the contract they created when they sold that product. TFB.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:57 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "although unlike most Sony critics it does actually use the OtherOS"

    Please desist from talking out of your arse.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:20 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Now I know why real-life war is slowly becoming a video game....

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:54 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I do think that the USAF should get an examption from Sony over the issue. Afterall, those PS3s are not for dubious purpose.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:42 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    # ...



    Comment by Anonymous
    10:45 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well, they only need the ps3's for the hardware anyway. Can't they just make their own software or are the USAF all computer illiterate?

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:54 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It wasn't the Airforce, it was the Navy.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:50 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Find a bad guy, I'll buy you ice cream for dinner..."

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:47 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    If that would happen. I would go to the army just to see tha girls and pantsu :)

    Avatar of boneless
    Comment by boneless
    09:54 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Running circles around China's Vii supercluster.

    Avatar of BlaqCat
    Comment by BlaqCat
    09:55 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Why? So you can constantly be replacing RR units?

    Avatar of DFC
    Comment by DFC
    10:44 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Skynet will also not be pleased.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:16 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    wow this is cool now they can replace the PS2 in Iraq and Afganistan for a PS3 more fun better GFX :p

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:00 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    not just corporations...

    Try the US government on that deal.

    Case in point. in the 1930s (FDR - democrat) a farmer had a small field, most of the time he grew wheat, he didn't sell the wheat, or even give it away, he grew and ate it. then comes the us government, they say he can't do that, they say he's impacting interstate commerce, and sue the guy for growing his own wheat. since congress can regulate interstate commerce, they can regulate farms and the like, and they say he's impacting commerce, because he's not selling the wheat, or that he's not buying other peoples wheat, so he's impacting interstate commmerce, and the Governement Wins! he can't grow his own wheat!!!! Fuck mega corperations, and Fuck governments that screw u over for making your own shit!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:38 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Let my comment be ignored by OtherOS was just blocked. You'll need an authorization from Sony itself.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:33 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Zenito has abandoned Libertas...

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:18 15/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Wait. DIdn't Sony reinstall Linux onto the PS3 via a firmware update not too long after the removal? If that is true, then why all this nonsense? O.o

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:26 16/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    To quote Gen. Lesley Groves:
    An elephant is a mouse to military specifications

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:56 15/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    They actually make a profit on an even newer hardware revision now. So there is absolutely no reason to refuse selling them to groups like the Airforce.

    Avatar of Frigo
    Comment by Frigo
    03:40 12/04/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Isn't "razor and blade" type of product tying illegal in the United States? They could simply blackmail Sony to provide appopriate replacement units or else...

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:57 30/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I have an ps3 (with Linux)that the US air force can buy for a fair price ;)

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:54 30/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)


    2,036 MINT PS3's


    US Air Force

    (ask for Steve)

    03:58 15/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    They could buy cell blades and simply move the software over with few changes.

    The bad part they are much more expensive though they have 8GB of ram each.

    Really Sony should just enter the super computer market and sell an expandable version of the PS3 hardware with an unlocked hyperviser ,8 ddr2 dimm slots and PCI-e X16 slots.
    Sell it for $2000 and they could crush Dell and Apple in the HPC market.

    They also could sell a $500 to $800 version with expandable memory running yellow dog or ubuntu as a home computer/media center.
    Pit it against the Mac mini.

    The share holders should pressure to have the morons behind the removal of linux support fired maybe even have the CEO step down.
    What they could make in the HPC/server market dwarfs any loss linux might cause from piracy since cell beats X86 so badly in performance per watt.

    Avatar of Min
    Comment by Min
    00:50 15/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Uh, that's the entire point here. The USAF is using PS3s for their hardware. Sony is now making it impossible to replace or repair failing hardware. They can make all the software they want, but that won't fix broken hardware.

    Comment by PhillB
    16:19 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Its all USAF's fault. US government has too many contractors such as IBM, Cray and Lockheed, and so they decided to take on the product of a market oriented company. They have no right to complain.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:34 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's not the USAF's fault Sony eighty-sixed OtherOS.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:46 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Whatever you think of the USAF, if you are going to say it's just capitalism and Sony's good right to do whatever they want in terms of features, you shouldn't grieve over research customers busting Sony's pricing model. It's not like customers have some kind of obligation to bring them profits.

    Avatar of cician
    Comment by cician
    22:11 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The USAF supercomputer is partly paid off of your eroges! (considering PS3s were selling the hardware at a loss and their profits came from game sell margins)
    Support the US army, buy more EROGEs!

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:24 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You know, it would be so funny is the Air Force, the fucking U.S. MILITARY, were the only ones who actually have a legitimate reason to go to court over this.

    Avatar of Uncommon0taku
    Comment by Uncommon0taku
    18:32 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The Air Force's Birds are in their 30's they need the money to buy new ones.

    Air Frames have a limited service life, there are only so many upgrades you can make to any kind of machine and when you have a fleet of them. Redundant maintenence and upgrades take their toll on their budget.

    Sooner or later they have to get new birds. With their budgets being trimmed here and there, they have to be more efficient and responsible now-a-days.

    Its more cost effective for their pilots to train in a simulator. But to have a ready aircraft to go at a moments notice,... It isn't something to have to depend upon if its an obsolete deathtrap that could come down on your house just because of a mechanical problem from old age.

    This ain't the 70's - Govt's have to be more fiscally responsible for what they spend their monies on. They can't just keep on adding to the national deficits like there is no tommorow.

    We're in a tough economic era now because of those free spending times of the past.


    Comment by Anonymous
    03:11 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I hope they get sued (sony) regardless of whether you used the other OS feature or not they removed a feature they gave you at the point of sale.

    Sony are indian givers.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:43 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Your mother is an indian giver.

    Avatar of giedriusonline
    Comment by giedriusonline
    03:16 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    i agree to your opinion and can say that calculating power cost per unit compared to usual soper computer is MUCH lover then usual ones

    Avatar of echelon64
    Comment by echelon64
    03:10 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The tone of this article indicates some extreme hate for the U.S. Air Force. Well, if it take the Air Force to bring some kind of resolution to the PS3 Linux debacle then I am all for it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:10 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You're insane. If they did that, imagine what would happen when several of those suddenly RROD while processing new counterterrorism tactics?

    Comment by Anonymous
    Comment by Anonymous
    03:10 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Not directly. They have it on some price sheet, but you can't order them.

    IBM sells Cell based servers, but they are magnitudes more expensive then the PS3.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:24 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    it's a sony...

    Avatar of denn
    Comment by denn
    03:25 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "limited DoD budgets" yeah, you poor fellows. Say brother, can you spare a dime?

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:53 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I read the original Ars Technica article a few days ago. Then I read the Sankaku rewrite. Its amazing how the choice of words in each respective article influences the tone of each article so greatly.

    I especially liked how it is said that 'cheapskate research institutes cobbling together supercomputers from subsidised home consoles are hardly in a position to complain' instead of something like 'economical research institutes that assemble supercomputers in novel ways by taking advantage of subsidies by technology companies still have a legal right to complain even though they stand to be criticised on their frugality'.

    Still, as always, I enjoyed reading the article. Somewhat in the same way some people enjoy FOX news.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:23 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Sankaku is entirely comprised of sensationalist headlines and writing, durrrrrrrrr.

    Avatar of Riiku
    Comment by Riiku
    03:56 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The Cell processor on it's own is not much better than any other processor of similar performance class. What makes this clusters work is the price of a whole assembled architecture. Even GPU can be used solely for math calculations, with the right programming skills.

    Avatar of onitake
    Comment by onitake
    05:58 14/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    and that's what they should use from now on... with the availability of a common supercomputing api (opencl), it will even be relatively easy to port their numbercrunching software to a new platform.
    just rewrite the glue code that exchanges data between cpu and gpgpu, and you're done.
    but maybe it's true and a bunch of ps3s really are cheaper than the equivalent in 5870s or gtx480s. those beasts still cost close to 400/500$.

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