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US Air Force Shows the Power of Commoditization

by Andrea Di Maio  |  November 21, 2009  |  2 Comments

A few days ago I came across a request for proposals issued by the US Air Force Materiel Command to purchase 2,200 Sony Playstation 3 (PS3).

For how surprising this may look like, the  justification is indeed very clear. The Air Force is interested in expanding an earlier pilot where it has been using 300 PS3 to experiment a high performance computing architecture based on the Cell Broadband Engine Architecture, which powers the PS3. This research aims at determining  what software and hardware technologies will be implemented in military systems.

As described in the justification review document attached to the RFP,

With respect to cell processors, a single 1U server configured with two 3.2GHz cell processors can cost up to $8K while two Sony PS3s cost approximately $600. 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.

The document provides further justification about why the Air Force is using PS3 technology, but the one above is quite compelling.

This is a pristine example of how consumer technology can be used in pretty demanding government contexts – although still in an R&D rather than operational capacity. It should make reflect many of those who are still dismissive about the commoditization of government technology (such as the use of consumer social software and cloud computing).

Category: cloud  

Tags: commoditization  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio


Thoughts on US Air Force Shows the Power of Commoditization


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alan W. Silberberg and Andrea DiMaio, Sonny Hashmi. Sonny Hashmi said: RT @AndreaDiMaio: US Air Force Shows the Power of Commoditization (and Consumerization) by procuring 2,200 PS3 – http://bit.ly/6Dw2KJ […]

  2. […] chip technology inside the PS3, specifically the Cell Broadband Engine Architecture, according a blog post by Gartner Inc. analyst Andrea DiMaio. The Air Force is studying whether the PS3 chips could be a cost-effective technology for […]



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