Magazine article ASEE Prism

Fast, Faster, Petaflop

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Fast, Faster, Petaflop

Article excerpt

WHEN THE WORLD'S fastest supercomputers were ranked last November at www.top500.org, BlueGene/L, the IBM machine at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California was still reigning champion. Thanks to a recent upgrade, it now reaches the breakneck speed of 478.2 teraflops-a teraflop being a trillion calculations per second. But BlueGene/L won't remain No. 1 for long. By early 2009, a new generation of supercomputers will leave it in the dust. These turbocharged machines will perform at least a quadrillion (1,000 trillion)-calculations per second. That speed is called 1 petaflop, and it's more than twice the rate of BlueGene/L. One contender for the first petaflop computer is Roadrunner, being built by IBM for DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory. It will use souped-up versions of the Cell processors found in Sony PlayStation 3 consoles. Another contender is the Cray supercomputer, code-named Baker, destined for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. …

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