Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Roadrunner" Smashes Petaflop Barrier

IBM and the Los Alamos National Laboratory have reportedly built the world's first petaflop supercomputer named Roadrunner. Roadrunner was specifically designed to ensure the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.

A petaflop is a measure of a computer s processing speed and can be expressed as a thousand trillion floating point operations per second.

Scheduled for installation at Los Alamos in August, IBM says Roadrunner represents a breakthrough in hybrid computing, combining AMD microprocessors found in standard laptops and servers with the IBM Cell Broadband Engine chips that power Sony's PS3 gaming console. Roadrunner, consists of 6,948 dual-core AMD Opteron processors, 12,960 Cell processors and 80 terabytes of memory, talk about a screaming gaming machine!

Roadrunner "will produce the largest supercomputer ever at 1.5 petaflops, three times faster than the current largest system," IBM chief engineer Donald Grice says in a video on Big Blue's Web site. "It's a hybrid architecture that will allow science at a scale that's never been allowed before."

CNN via the AP did a great job of putting the speed of the new machine in to layman's terms. "To put the computer's speed in perspective, if every one of the 6 billion people on earth used a hand-held computer and worked 24 hours a day it would take them 46 years to do what the Roadrunner computer can do in a single day."

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