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Roadrunner Supercomputer  (Source: IBM)
Roadrunner supercomputer is first to break petaflop barrier

A new supercomputer in the U.S. has broken a barrier that many thought wouldn’t be broken for years to come. A new supercomputer-- dubbed Roadrunner-- has broken the petaflop barrier.

Roadrunner was designed by engineers and scientists at IBM and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Ultimately, Roadrunner will be placed into a classified environment where it will be used to simulate what effects aging has on the stockpile of nuclear weapons the U.S. has in its arsenal. The problem it will work on is modeling how aging nuclear weapons behave the first fraction of a second during an explosion. Before beginning its nuclear weapons research, Roadrunner will be used to model the effects of global warming.

The Roadrunner supercomputer costs $133 million and is built using chips from both consumer electronics and more common server processors.

Roadrunner has 12,960 chips that are an improved version of the Cell chip used in the PS3. These Cell processors act as a turbocharger for certain portions of the calculations the Roadrunner processes. The computer also uses a smaller, unspecified number of AMD Opteron processors.

A computer researcher from the University of Tennessee, Jack Dongarra told the New York Times, “This [breaking the petaflop barrier] is equivalent to the four-minute mile of supercomputing.”

Horst Simon from the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory said, “Roadrunner tells us about what will happen in the next decade. Technology is coming from the consumer electronics market and the innovation is happening first in terms of cell phones and embedded electronics.”

Technology first appearing in the consumer electronics market and then making its way into supercomputing is a stark contrast to a process that commonly works in the exact opposite manner.

In total, Roadrunner has 116,640 processing cores and the real challenge for programmers is figuring out how to keep all of those processing cores in use simultaneously to get the best performance. Roadrunner requires about 3 megawatts of power, or about enough electricity to run a large shopping center.

To put the processing power in perspective, Thomas P. D’Agostino of the National Nuclear Security Administration said that if all 6 billion people on Earth entered calculations on a calculator for 24 hours a day, seven days per week it would take 46 years to do what Roadrunner can do in one day.

How Roadrunner is cooled is unknown, IBM has recently moved to liquid cooling for its supercomputers, but Roadrunner appears to be air cooled.

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If someone makes a Crysis joke...
By amanojaku on 6/9/2008 4:33:41 PM , Rating: 2
I'll go Postal. Aw $hit, that's just as bad!


RE: If someone makes a Crysis joke...
By Smartless on 6/9/2008 4:45:57 PM , Rating: 2
What about a Skynet joke? BB gun to the head?

By 306maxi on 6/9/2008 4:47:59 PM , Rating: 2
Argh! Skynet is software! Not hardware

RE: If someone makes a Crysis joke...
By DanoruX on 6/9/2008 5:23:23 PM , Rating: 1
It will play Crysis at 2 frames per minute at 320x240 on low.

RE: If someone makes a Crysis joke...
By MrBlastman on 6/9/2008 5:31:33 PM , Rating: 2
... in Hercules monochrome settings.

RE: If someone makes a Crysis joke...
By 67STANG on 6/9/2008 5:55:51 PM , Rating: 3
But can it run Vista?

RE: If someone makes a Crysis joke...
By Flunk on 6/10/2008 5:39:42 PM , Rating: 4
Sorry, licensing does not allow more than 2 sockets for Vista Ultimate. Please purchase Windows Server 2008 Ridiculously Advanced Server Edition.

By wjobs55 on 6/11/2008 12:20:06 AM , Rating: 2
For the low, low price of $133 million per OEM license.

RE: If someone makes a Crysis joke...
By TSS on 6/9/2008 8:16:14 PM , Rating: 5
i'm sorry, crytek has halted support for crysis. jokes are no longer available.

however they have announced the next crap they plan to rip us off on so you will get your fill later on.

RE: If someone makes a Crysis joke...
By MrPoletski on 6/9/2008 11:10:33 PM , Rating: 2
say WHAT now?

RE: If someone makes a Crysis joke...
By Flunk on 6/10/2008 5:41:53 PM , Rating: 3
He's saying Crysis was a rather lame game that tried to get by on advanced graphics alone. I happen to agree and I would like to add that it is very poorly optimized because compared to other games that look similar it runs terribly on equivalent hardware.

By Mojo the Monkey on 6/11/2008 7:36:48 PM , Rating: 2
the military is now developing a top-secret hydraulic mechanism that will enable them to still throw the massive computer "out of a window"; thus enabling them to trust it.

(ref: Wozniak quote)

By smarrtsauler on 6/11/2008 7:29:34 PM , Rating: 2
ridiculous comparison. computer vs human

can the Roadrunner control a robotic hand that can perform on conventional calculator at acceptable speed, with a "camera" that can receive and translate hand-writing can give instruction to that hand. plus, it had to give the result by writing on paper. lol

it is a machine, dont compare to human.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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