IBM has designed and developed a supercomputer that runs at incredible petaflop rates (a petaflop, apparently, is equivalent to one thousand trillion calculations every second). The new groundbreaking computer is twice as quick as the next best, which is also an IBM designed machine but isn’t going to be available at your local PC World any time soon.
The aptly named Roadrunner is, according to the BBC report, to be installed in a US government lab. From there it will closely (and very quickly) monitor and maintain the nuclear stockpile and is also likely to be used for research into genomics, climate change, and astronomy.
The Roadrunner is taking the mantle of world’s fastest computer away from the BlueGene/L, another IBM manufactured supercomputer already installed in the Los Alamos National Laboratory. However, the BlueGene/L only runs at a meagre 478.2 teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second, even after a recent upgrade.
Interestingly, the new Roadrunner has been built using components that were originally designed for the PlayStation 3. As well as using 7,000 standard processors, the RoadRunner employs 12,000 cell chips that were designed by a consortium of companies for use in the PS3.
While the Roadrunner is certainly the first supercomputer boasting petaflop speeds there are plans by numerous companies to create machines capable of similar speeds. IBM itself is already in the process of developing a new BlueGene machine while Sun and Cray have similar plans in the pipeline.