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Thursday, September 07, 2006
New IBM Supercomputer Aiming for Petaflop

IBM will build a next-generation supercomputer for the U.S. Energy Department with the potential to achieve a sustained speed of 1,000 trillion calculations per second, or one petaflop, the department said on Wednesday.

The new computer, dubbed "Roadrunner," will be built at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Congress provided $35 million in fiscal 2006, which ends on September 30, to launch the super computer project.

Roadrunner may eventually be used for an Energy Department program that ensures the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons is safe and reliable without the resumption of underground testing, the department said in a statement.

The machine is to be built entirely from commercially available hardware and based on the Red Hat Linux Version 4.3 operating system, it said.

IBM System x 3755 systems based on AMD Opteron technology will be deployed in conjunction with IBM BladeCenter H systems with Cell technology. The supercomputer design will include new software to orchestrate over 16,000 AMD Opteron processor cores and over 16,000 Cell B.E. processors in tackling some of the most challenging problems in computing today. The supercomputer will be capable of a peak performance of over 1.6 petaflops (or 1.6 thousand trillion calculations per second), according to IBM.

Designed also with space and power consumption issues in mind, the system will employ advanced cooling and power management technologies and will occupy only 12,000 square feet of floor space, or approximately the size of three basketball courts.

How it Works

Roadrunner's hybrid design will allow the system to segment complex mathematical equations, routing each segment to the part of the system that can most efficiently handle it. Typical compute processes, file IO, and communication activity will be handled by AMD Opteron processors while more complex and repetitive elements -- ones that traditionally consume the majority of supercomputer resources -- will be directed to the more than 16,000 Cell B.E. processors. Designed originally for gaming platforms, where intense graphics and real-time responsiveness are key, the Cell B.E. processor is ideal to speed Roadrunner through intense mathematical problems.

IBM will begin shipping the new supercomputer to the DOE facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory later this year, with completion of the installation and acceptance anticipated in 2008.

Based on the Power Architecture, the Cell B.E. processor was developed in collaboration with IBM, Sony Corporation, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., and Toshiba Corporation.

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