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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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RE: It doesn't matter how fast the computer is
By Reclaimer77 on 6/10/2008 1:00:59 AM , Rating: 2
Man Cloud there is so much wrong with your post I don't even know where to start. First off, thanks for putting the " failure of man as a species " sqarely on my shoulders. I mean really, are you for real ?

surely, the millions of tons of green house gases pumped out each year from factories and our cars has no significant threat.

Which is dwarfed in comparison to the greehouse gases caused from water vapor ! Something we simply cannot prevent.

people never believed we could have taken to the air. WRONG!people said we could never go to the moon. WRONG!
people believed we would have never taken the transistor to a microscopic level. WRONG!

Speaking of wrong. Are you actually comparing these scientific and inventive breakthroughs to being skeptical of the " imminent doom " of Global Warming ? Your joking right !?

Oh and you do realize flying planes and going to space pumps billions of tons of " deadly " greenhouse gases into the atmosphere ? Shame on you for not even finding " green " examples !

it's people like you that make me sick. why do we have to prove anything to you?

You don't. Just live your life and I'll live mine. But thats not good enough for you is it ?

there are many millions of people around the world who are helping to make this place a better to live for our future generation.

Like who ? Those who would use Global Warming to push a socialist agenda that will leave future generations with trillions in debt, weak economies, skyrocketing food costs and dwindling economic freedom all under the banner of " saving the planet " ?

And honestly, if you expect to be taken seriously you could actually learn to capitalize your sentences once in a while. But not a single one ?

By AlmostExAMD on 6/10/2008 4:06:52 AM , Rating: 2

"Like who ? Those who would use Global Warming to push a socialist agenda that will leave future generations with trillions in debt, weak economies, skyrocketing food costs and dwindling economic freedom all under the banner of " saving the planet " ?"

Ummm turn on the tv, All those above statements u just made are actually happening right now,LOL.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer
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