Xbox 360's Processor Delivers Budget Supercomputing

A team of researchers pulled off some supercomputing on the cheap using a single Xbox 360's graphical processing unit, instead of an array of processors operating in tandem, the BBC reports.

The researchers, at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, think they're the first to repurpose the processors as an inexpensive substitute for "parallel processing" - when multiple processors work together to provide powerful number crunching capacity.

In this case, a researcher built a system using a 360 Graphical Processing Unit to help him model how electrical signals in the heart moved around damaged cardiac cells. The researcher, Dr. Simon Scarle, had previous worked as a software engineer for Rare.

Put simply, Dr. Scarle said that he modified the chip to perform calculations other than graphical ones. The result wasn't "quite the full whammy of a cluster," of processors, "but it's close," he said.

"In the case of my research, rather than calculating the position of a structure and texture it's now working out the different chemical levels in a cell," Dr. Scarle said.

The BBC's report notes that the PlayStation 3's processor technology can be found in Roadrunner, the world's fastest supercomputer, and the console participates in the [email protected] project, which links up idle PCs and PS3s to perform parallel processing tasks in researching diseases.

Scarle said the 360's GPUs could be linked up into a cluster to provide even greater numbercrunching power, but "you would have to go over the internet - through something like Xbox live - rather than a standard method. However, without development tools, it wouldn't be easy."

Xbox Speeds Up Research Results [BBC, thanks Christopher G.]


    Man.. the 360 & PS3 are so different on the inside.

    What is that white thing?? The 360 really wasn't made that well was it? Comparing it to the PS3 Slim on the inside anyway.

    ANd i just searched for the inside of the normal PS3 and well, thats just totally different again to the 360 but also the Slim. They slim is entirely different altogether.

      The white thing is a conduit for air. It funnels air from the fans on the back through the copper heatsink that you can see. The PS3 Slim has one too, but I think it might be aluminium, rather than plastic - it doesn't really matter, since it's only directing airflow, not supporting any weight.

    And he's gonna get sued for messing with proprietry technologies.

      As long as they are researching cancer or Aids, I'm pretty sure they'd turn their heads on this one.

        As much of a cash grab Microsoft is, they wouldn't go that far. Besides, this is free publicity.



    "aw" :(

      *Thumbs Up*

    This is not news!

    Just about any processor can be turned into a "supercomputer" if you have enough of them and replacing "supercomputers" with GPUs is nothing new.

    With CUDA and Stream people having been doing this type of thing for a few years (and much faster than the 360's GPU I might add).

    Eh, it's been done before, but with PS3's.
    I work with 360's all day, and that picture above is pretty much the only way I ever see them. I don't think highly of them.

    Not really new, [email protected] is already able to run on GPUs. All that's being done here is a different type of research on a slower GPU.

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