Blink and miss computer finishing 1 quadrillion tasks

Scientists unveiled the world’s fastest supercomputer on Monday, a $100 million machine that performs 1 quadrillion calculations per second in a sustained exercise. The computer, nicknamed Roadrunner, is twice as fast as IBM’s Blue Gene system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which itself is three times faster than any of the world’s other supercomputers.

06/12/2008


Scientists unveiled the world’s fastest supercomputer on Monday, a $100 million machine that performs 1 quadrillion calculations per second in a sustained exercise.

 

Engineers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory —the birthplace of the atomic bomb—and IBM Corp. conducted this technology breakthrough on a computer primarily used for nuclear weapons work. The supercomputer is now housed at the IBM research laboratory in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and will be moved next month to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

 

Officials said the computer also could have a wide range of other applications in civilian engineering, medicine, and science, from developing biofuels and designing more fuel-efficient cars to finding drug therapies and providing services to the financial industry.

 

The computer, nicknamed Roadrunner, is twice as fast as IBM’s Blue Gene system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory , which itself is three times faster than any of the world’s other supercomputers.

 

As an indication of how fast this is, manufacturers explained that if 6 billion people were to do one equation per second on a calculator, it would take 46 years to do what RoadRunner could do in a day. The world's first supercomputer, the Cray 1 built in the mid-1970s, would take 1,500 years to finish a calculation that Roadrunner would perform in two hours.

 

IBM and Los Alamos engineers worked six years on the computer technology.

 

Some elements of the Roadrunner can be traced back to popular video games, said David Turek, vice president of IBM's supercomputing programs. In some ways, he said, it's "a very souped-up Sony PlayStation 3. "We took the basic chip design (of a PlayStation) and advanced its capability," Turek said.

 

But the Roadrunner supercomputer, named after the New Mexico state bird, is nothing like a video game.

 

The interconnecting system occupies 6,000 sq. ft with 57 miles of fiber optics and weighs 500,000 lbs. Although made from commercial parts, the computer consists of 6,948 dual-core computer chips and 12,960 cell engines, and it has 80 terabytes of memory housed in 288 connected refrigerator-sized racks.





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