Supercomputer based on Cell, Opteron breaks petaFLOPS barrier

— 10:17 AM on June 9, 2008

A new IBM supercomputer has broken the petaFLOPS barrier, the International Herald Tribune reports. Developed by IBM and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the $133-million Roadrunner supercomputer has managed to compute over 1.026 quadrillion floating-point operations per second—a world record.

To put that number in perspective, Thomas D'Agostino of the National Nuclear Security Administration told the IHT, "If all six billion people on earth used hand calculators and performed calculations 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it would take them 46 years to do what the Roadrunner can in one day." At the heart of the supercomputer lie 12,960 "improved" Cell Broadband Engine processors as well as a smaller number of AMD Opteron CPUS, for a total of 116,640 processor cores. The entire system consumes about three megawatts of power, or about as much as a large shopping mall.

Roadrunner's first task will be to help scientists explore problems like climate change. The system will then be put in a classified environment, where it will help the U.S. military assess how its nuclear weapons will function as they age. According to the IHT, Roadrunner will "simulate the behavior of the weapons in the first fraction of a second during an explosion." (Thanks to TR reader Everett for the tip.)

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