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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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By StevoLincolnite on 6/10/2008 2:19:39 AM , Rating: 2
Look at it this way, the Planet is our Home, yet we don't live in houses, full of rubbish, cow paddies giving off methane, Nuclear waste in the Basement, thus why should our "Larger" Backyard (Backyard being Earth) should be any different?

I don't really know much about the whole Global warming issue, and whether it's happening or not, but seriously, I don't want my future Grand Children running around in a dump, and neither should any other self respecting person.

And doing *Something* About it, rather than nothing is better in the long run in m opinion, there would only be so far where we can drop toxic chemical's into the oceans, and rivers before they become to far polluted that we cant use them to water crops, and drink from.

For Instance, the Great Barrier Reef, is the largest Coral Reef on the planet, yet Sugar Can Farmers have all the run off going out to sea, these high-levels of pollutants, are killing the reef, bleaching the Corals, and just making it completely un-pleasant, I went on a Holiday there when I was younger and thoroughly enjoyed it, I would love to have my Great Grand Children go there and enjoy the same things that I did, but at the rate it's being destroyed that may not happen.

By tastyratz on 6/10/2008 8:50:26 AM , Rating: 3
and your right with other issues. we have a lot better things to do than worry about global warming, were trashing the planet in so many other ways.

Hippies just like to hyperfocus on global warming because the human race is to arrogant and elitist to accept the fact that the difference we make is in insignificant proportions.
Mankind cant accept the idea of it being out of our great and powerful control.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs
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