IBM goes for the Petaflop

IBM has landed a contract with The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to build the world’s first supercomputer based around Big Blue’s Cell Broadband Engine (Cell B.E.). The resulting monster is expected to reach speeds of one Petaflop or 1000 trillion calculations per second.

The current world record holder is the IBM built Blue Gene/L, which has been benchmarked at running a world record performance of 280.6 Teraflops at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.

The new machine will be based at Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of its uses, like the Blue Gene/L, will be to simulate nuclear explosions.

The machine – codenamed Roadrunner – will be a hybrid machine consisting or 16,000 Cell B.E. processors, the chip designed for use in the Playstation 3, and 16,000 AMD x86 processors. IBM says that at peak loads the machine will be capable of a peak performance of over 1.6 Petaflops.

Unlike the older idea of a single monolithic machine, this supercomputer is to be built entirely from commercially available hardware and based on the Linux operating system. IBM intends to use its System x 3755 servers based on AMD Opterons alongside IBM BladeCenter H systems with the Cells inside.

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