The Folding@home distributed computing project of Stanford University has hit the petaflop mark with 80 percent of the power coming from spare processor cycles on PlayStation 3 consoles.
The success of the PlayStation 3 in aiding the project was highlighted by Kaz Hirai, president and CEO of Sony, during a keynote address at the Tokyo Game Show.
Current statistics on the project’s home page show processing capacity at 1P Flops (floating point operations per second) with 804T Flops from the PlayStation 3. A further 163T Flops are from Windows-based computers and 43T Flops from graphics processors.
The project is attempting to unlock the mysteries of protein folding. It’s suspected that misfolds in proteins are the cause of several diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, BSE and some forms of cancer so better understanding the process could lead to medical breakthroughs.
The computer power needed to perform the modelling and calculations is immense but the problem is such that it can be broken down into pieces each of which are handled by different machines. PlayStation 3 owners who enable the Folding@home application contribute unused power of their console processors to the task.