World's Fastest Supercomputer Is "A Souped-Up PlayStation 3"

| 10 Jun 2008 11:56

The public got its first glimpse at the world's fastest supercomputer on Monday, a petaflop-capable machine described by an IBM executive as a "souped-up Sony PlayStation 3."

Roadrunner, developed by engineers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and IBM Corporation, is twice as fast as IBM's Blue Gene computer, which is itself three times faster than any other supercomputer in the world. The system weighs 500,000 pounds, according to a CNN report, takes up 6000 square feet and uses 6948 dual-core processors, 12,960 cell engines, 57 miles of fiber-optic cable and 80 terabytes of memory. The whole thing costs $100 million.

Yet much of the technology behind all that power has been evolved from videogame consoles. David Turek, vice president of supercomputing programs at IBM, described Roadrunner as "a very souped-up PlayStation 3" in some ways, adding, "We took the basic chip design (of a PlayStation) and advanced its capability."

In both testing and real-world applications in classified nuclear weapons work, the computer achieved "petaflop" speeds, breaking the 1000 trillion operations per second mark. Turek called the performance "a huge and remarkable achievement," and said that only two years ago there were no actual applications in which a computer reach even 100 teraflops, only one-tenth of Roadrunner's speed. Despite its early work with nuclear stockpiles, Turek predicted the computer would have a wide-ranging impact in the future. "The technology will be pronounced in its employment across industry in the years to come," he said.

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