Technology is Neat: Clustering Consoles Edition

As a lady in the computer sciences world who still operates mostly in academia, I actually don’t encounter a lot of people who assume I don’t know how to computer. This makes it particularly annoying when I DO encounter such people, though, so when I had someone try to tell me that the reason the Air Force had made a cluster out of PS3s back in 2009 was because the PS3’s CPU “does math”.

For those of you who aren’t computer people, the CPU in your microwave does math.

Trying to tell a PhD student in computer sciences (who has, by the by, taught introduction to systems) that it’s particularly remarkable that a CPU does math is roughly one of the most professionally insulting things I’ve experienced so far, and I got ragey. But I am interested in the whole “why are consoles good for clustering” thing, so I dug around yesterday to see if my initial suspicions (specialized instructions and a predilection for networking) had any merit. Put on your learnin’ hats and follow me over the jump, kids, it’s time for some tech talk!