[lit-ideas] Petaflops and Modest Teraflops

  • From: "Julie Krueger" <juliereneb@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2007 12:53:26 -0500

Okay -- again -- Speranza is needed.  Teraflop?  Petraflop?  Sounds like
something out of the original Star Trek series -- perhaps something in the
world of Tribbles....

Or...."Yes, I need a petraflop drive because my hard disk has gone soft and
my cd's have melted back into floppies....".

If you have any kind of handle on what trillions of calculations per second
looks like, please let me know.  Apparently gigabyte is the new kilobyte.

In some odd way, this article is nearly zen-like.

[image: BBC NEWS]
Supercomputer steps up the pace
* The world's fastest commercial supercomputer has been launched by computer
giant IBM. *

Blue Gene/P is three times more potent than the current fastest machine,
BlueGene/L, also built by IBM.

The latest number cruncher is capable of operating at so called "petaflop"
speeds - the equivalent of 1,000 trillion calculations per second.

Approximately 100,000 times more powerful than a PC, the first machine has
been bought by the US government.

It will be installed at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National
Laboratory in Illinois later this year.

Two further machines are planned for US laboratories and a fourth has been
bought by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council for its Daresbury
Laboratory Cheshire.

The ultra powerful machines will be used for complex simulations to study
everything from particle physics to nanotechnology.

* Expansion pack *

Currently the most powerful machine is Blue Gene/L, housed at the Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Blue Gene/L, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California.
(280.6teraflops; 131,072 processors)
Jaguar, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee (101.7 teraflops; 11,706
Red Storm, Sandia National Laboratories, USA (101.4 teraflops; 26,544
BGW Blue Gene, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, New York
(91.29teraflops; 40,960 processors)
New York Blue, Stony Brook/BNL, New York Center for Computational Sciences,
New York (82.161 teraflops; 36,864 processors)
* Source: Top 500 Supercomputers *

Used to ensure that the US nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe and
reliable, it has achieved 280.6 teraflops or trillions of calculations per

The machine packs 131,072 processors and is theoretically capable of
reaching 367 teraflops.

By comparison the standard one petaflop Blue Gene/P comes with
294,912-processors connected by a high-speed, optical network.

However, it can be expanded to pack 884,736 processors, a configuration that
would allow the machine to compute 3,000 trillion calculations per second
(three petaflops).

"Blue Gene/P marks the evolution of the most powerful supercomputing
platform the world has ever known," said Dave Turek, vice president of deep
computing, IBM.

* Cell division *

The new Blue Gene computers form just a part of IBM's supercomputing

 The world's biggest computer-services company has built almost half of the
500 fastest supercomputers.

It is also currently building a bespoke supercomputer for the DOE's Los
Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico.

Codenamed Roadrunner, it will be able to crunch through 1.6 thousand
trillion calculations per second.

The computer will contain 16,000 standard processors working alongside
16,000 "cell" processors, designed for the PlayStation 3 (PS3).

Each cell chip consists of eight processors controlled by a master unit that
can assign tasks to each member of the processing team. Each cell is capable
of 256 billion calculations per second.

The power of the cell chip means Roadrunner needs far fewer processors than
its predecessors.

Another contender for top supercomputer has been unveiled by Sun. Its
Constellation machine will be able to run at a maximum speed of 1.7petaflops.

The first Constellation machine, called Ranger, is being put together for
the University of Texas at Austin and will run at a modest 500 teraflops.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/06/27 09:50:11 GMT


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