Friday, June 20, 2008

IBM-Built Supercomputer No.1 in TOP500

IBM's hybrid supercomputer, codenamed Roadrunner, built for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Los Alamos National Lab, burned its way into the TOP500 Supercomputer record book today as the most powerful system in the world. Its sustained performance of 1.02 petaflops (1.02 quadrillion calculations per second) - using the standard Linpack benchmark. It is the first general-purpose computer to reach this milestone. The new performance record represents more than twice the computational power of the reigning TOP500 champ, Lawrence Livermore's Blue Gene/L supercomputer.

This "hybrid" architecture, which optimizes the strength of multiple types of processors, is an IBM hallmark. The design is analogous to that of a hybrid car with similar benefits. For example, if the NNSA supercomputer were built with standard x86 chips alone, the system would have been significantly larger and would have required much more power. But this system is powered by mix of IBM PowerXCell 8i Cell Broadband Engine processors – derived from chips that power today’s most popular videogame consoles - and 6,562 AMD Opteron Dual-Core processors.

While the NNSA supercomputer will be used for ensuring the reliability and safety of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, it also sets the pace for future research in a variety of scientific and commercial fields including biotech, alternative energy, climate change and physics. IBM expects its hybrid design to lead the way to a commercial supercomputer platform that will support new scientific research and engineering workloads unthinkable just a decade ago.

Although IBM selected AMD processors for their performance leader, 374 systems (74.8 percent) out of Top 500 list now using Intel processors. Moreover, the number of systems using Intel Harpertown and Clovertown quad-core chips showed the fastest growth rising in six months from 102 to 252 systems.

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