Beep, beep! Roadrunner supercomputer laps the field

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By Roger Snodgrass

A supercomputer under development by Los Alamos National Laboratory and IBM in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. has zoomed past the petaflop speed barrier. Measuring sustained and peak speeds higher than a quadrillion calculations, a thousand trillion operations-per-second, the high-performance Roadrunner has opened a new dimension of computing.

Still in its shakeout phase, the supercomputer has also demonstrated petaflop capabilities on actual programs used by the laboratory and has shown itself to be one of the most energy efficient supercomputers in existence, according to top officials in the National Nuclear Security Administration, IBM and LANL.

The speed record of 1.026 petaflops was measured using the Linpack benchmark, a standard test for measuring a computer’s performance in “solving a dense system of linear equations.” Linpack is used in ranking the “Top 500” supercomputers and was developed by Jack Dongarra, who was one of the independent evaluators of Roadrunner’s recent feat.

The petaflop mark was broken on May 26, just in time to be recognized next week at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany.

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