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Roadrunner supercomputer is still fast but can't match today's best

One certainty in the technology world is that computer technology advances quickly. What was once of the fastest computers in the world only a few years ago is today well down on the list of the world's top performers. A perfect example is the Roadrunner supercomputer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. When the supercomputer was installed in 2008, it was the world's fastest and the first supercomputer capable of breaking the petaflop (1 million billion calculations per second) barrier.

Roadrunner is still an incredibly fast supercomputer, but it was decommissioned Sunday. The supercomputer was operational for five years and was used in a wide variety of projects including providing key simulations for the Stockpile Stewardship Program and other unclassified scientific projects.

"Roadrunner exemplified stockpile stewardship: an excellent team integrating complex codes with advanced computing architectures to ensure a safe, secure and effective deterrent," said Chris Deeney, NNSA Assistant Deputy Administrator for Stockpile Stewardship. "Roadrunner and its successes have positioned us well to weather the technology changes on the HPC horizon as we implement stockpile modernization without recourse to underground testing."

Roadrunner uses a hybrid design with 6563 dual-core general-purpose AMD Opteron processors. Each of those processors was linked to a PowerXCell 8i processor, an enhanced version of the chip designed for the Sony PlayStation 3.

One reason that the supercomputer is being decommissioned has to do with the incredible amount of power it utilizes to achieve its impressive performance. While Roadrunner is now sitting around the 20th place on the list of the world's most powerful computers, modern computers use significantly less power for significantly more performance.

IBM had previously predicted supercomputers would reach the 20 petaflop range by 2012.

Source: LANL





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