Roadrunner Military Supercomputer Sets Processing Record

Roadrunner, the IBM supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, manages 1.026 quadrillion calculations per seconds, also known as a Petaflop. Twice as fast as IBM's Blue Gene/L, the previous World's Fastest, the Roadrunner—also from the House of IBM, will be used, once classified, to solve military problems—such as making sure our proud nation's nuclear weapons will continue to work correctly as they age. Until classification, however, it will be used for important scientific problems, such as how I can get more shoes in my closet climate change.

Designed from video game components, and costing $133 million, Roadrunner contains 12,960 chips redesigned from an I.B.M. Cell microprocessor that was originally created for Sony's PlayStation 3 video-game machine. Add to that a bunch of Opteron processors from Advance Micro Devices, which are commonly found in corporate servers, and there's your supercomputer.

It runs on around three megawatts of power—around the amount that a shopping mall needs if it is to function properly—and needs three separate programming tools to run the trio of different processors. The complicated bit for programmers is to keep all 116,640 processor cores occupied simultaneously, or else the supercomputer does not run effectively. [New York Times]