20 petaflops. That's the speed rating of IBM's slated Sequoia supercomputer, the future world's fastest supercomputer that promises to be faster than every system on the Top500 supercomputer list, combined.
So what's all that actually mean? IBM offered us some more tangible ways to wrap your mind around 20 quadrillion mathematical processes per second.
• If each of the 6.7 billion people on earth had a hand calculator and worked together on a calculation 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, it would take 320 years to do what Sequoia will do in one hour.
• 20 petaflops could offer a 50x improvement in our capability to predict earthquakes, allowing scientists to predict an earthquake's effects on a building-by-building basis across an area as large as Los Angeles County.
• 20 petaflops could also provide a 40x improvement in our capability to monitor and forecast weather. This would allow forecasters to predict local weather events that affect areas 100 meters to one kilometer in size, down from their current ten-kilometer ability.
The Sequoia will be powered by 1.6 million cores (specific 45-nanometer chips in development) and 1.6 petabytes of memory. It will be housed in 96 refrigerators spanning roughly 3,000 square feet.