Roadrunner speeds to the front

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By Roger Snodgrass

Los Alamos National Laboratory captured top spot in the global supercomputer derby with its new Roadrunner machine by IBM.


LANL’s computer won the Top500 competition in June, only weeks after it became the first computer in the world to break the petaflop speed barrier. Roadrunner was clocked at slightly more than one quadrillion petaflops, or a million billion floating point operations per second, according to a standard benchmark used by industry.


To reach that speed, the $120 million hybrid vaulted over the previous frontrunner, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s BlueGene/L.


The Roadrunner also won praise as a highly efficient, energy-saving machine, running at twice the pace of the BlueGene/L with only a slight increment of power.


Demitri Kusnezov, a top computer research official at the National Nuclear Security Administration, called it “a monumental achievement”.


There were a few chuckles that went around about how the main computational acceleration comes from a souped-up version of IBM’s Cell processors used in the Sony Play Station 3.