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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 geddarkstorm on 6/10/2008 1:04:59 PM , Rating: 2
It's one thing to make light of tragedies that are actually happening, than it is to make absurd jokes about things that'll never happen. Unless Iran starts nuking everyone in its corner of the world, no one (save maybe Israel) is going to nuke it.

People need to lighten up, then there wouldn't be so many wars in this world.

RE: It doesn't matter how fast the computer is
By Relion on 6/10/2008 6:21:46 PM , Rating: 2
Well...exactly my point, only that we differ. You see it as an absurdity, but I don't see it like that, US military abusing other countries is just real, you like it or not.

"People need to lighten up, then there wouldn't be so many wars in this world."
I can't agree more with this, lovely words, it's a shame our leaders don't think the same...

RE: It doesn't matter how fast the computer is
By Reclaimer77 on 6/10/2008 7:22:28 PM , Rating: 1
"People need to lighten up, then there wouldn't be so many wars in this world. I can't agree more with this, lovely words, it's a shame our leaders don't think the same..."

For once I agree with a hippie !

People DO need to lighten up. Namely those sexually repressed third world wifebeating womanizing terrorizing suicide bombing Koran reading mass murdering plane hijacking maniac Muslims.

Lets start with them first. I think when you riot and kill people because of a cartoon drawing, you automatically get moved to first on the list of those who need to " lighten up ".

Our leaders didn't start this. Do your best to keep forgetting that though.

By wjobs55 on 6/11/2008 12:58:40 AM , Rating: 2
Doing our best to forget won't help when our Jewish friends are always reminding us. But on another note we really should attack Iran and make our Jewish friend israel safer so none of her citizens has to die. We have the population to sustain any casualties. Israel doesn't because it has so small a population and always losing its people.

By pxavierperez on 6/12/2008 5:47:54 PM , Rating: 2
er, our leaders did start this. retake that history class you flunked awhile back.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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