Los Alamos Supercomputer Remains Fastest in World

Nov 18, 2008

The latest list of the TOP500 computers in the world has been announced at the SC08 supercomputing conference in Austin, Texas, and continued to place the Roadrunner supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory as fastest in the world running the LINPACK benchmark -- the industry standard for measuring sustained performance.

Roadrunner is currently housed at the Nicholas Metropolis Center for Modeling and Simulation at Los Alamos where it reached a sustained 1.105 petaflop/s on November 2, 2008.

“Petaflop/s” is computer jargon—peta signifying the number 1 followed by 15 zeros (sometimes called a quadrillion) and flop/s meaning “double-precision floating point operations per second.”

“The full Roadrunner system is now fully installed at Los Alamos and has entered its acceptance phase and is operating at or above designed performance,” said Andrew White, Roadrunner project director. “We are looking forward to the integration phase where we use the machine to do some fascinating calculations in the unclassified realm, to see what it can really do.”

The unique hybrid architecture of Roadrunner was developed by IBM in partnership with Los Alamos and the National Nuclear Security Administration. Roadrunner uses commercially available hardware, including aspects of commercial game console technologies. Because of its off-the-shelf components, the $121 million computer costs significantly less than a one-of-a-kind machine.

The Roadrunner system was built by IBM in Poughkeepsie, New York, and became the first computer to break the petaflop/s barrier running LINPACK in May 2008. At that time the system also ran three scientific codes to verify its performance. Among those codes was “PetaVision” a model of the human visual system—mimicking more than 1 billion visual neurons and trillions of synapses. Neurons are nerve cells that process information in the brain. Neurons communicate with each other using synaptic connections, analogous to what transistors are in modern computer chips. Synapses store memories and play a vital role in learning.

Los Alamos scientists used PetaVision to reach a new computing performance record of 1.144 petaflop/s. The achievement throws open the door to eventually achieving human-like cognitive performance in electronic computers. PetaVision requires only single precision arithmetic, whereas the official LINPACK code used to officially verify Roadrunner’s speed uses double precision. System enhancements to Roadrunner have boosted the computer’s speed since its initial listing in the TOP500 last June.

The secret to Roadrunner’s record-breaking performance is its hybrid design. The full system consists of AMD Opteron dual-core processors and PowerXCell 8i Cell processors, a special IBM-developed variant of the Cell processor used in the Sony PlayStation 3. The node-attached Cell accelerators are what make Roadrunner different from typical clusters.

Provided by Los Alamos National Laboratory

Explore further: Kickstarter project SAM kit helps teach hardware system coding

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Designing exascale computers

Jul 23, 2014

"Imagine a heart surgeon operating to repair a blocked coronary artery. Someday soon, the surgeon might run a detailed computer simulation of blood flowing through the patient's arteries, showing how millions ...

End of the line for Roadrunner supercomputer

Mar 31, 2013

It's the end of the line for Roadrunner, a first-of-its-kind collection of processors that once reigned as the world's fastest supercomputer. The $121 million supercomputer, housed at one of the premier U.S. ...

NM fire poised to become largest in state history

Jun 30, 2011

(AP) -- With firefighters bracing for another day of strong, erratic winds, a wildfire near the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratory and a northern New Mexico community was poised Thursday to become ...

Recommended for you

AOL to feed more video, news to Microsoft's MSN

1 hour ago

AOL will provide Microsoft's MSN with more video and additional news stories from popular sites such as The Huffington Post and TechCrunch in an expansion of a deal aimed at selling more digital advertising.

First self-contained step dimming LED tube

4 hours ago

Samsung Electronics today introduced the industry's first AC Direct step-dimming LED linear replacement for T8 and T12 fluorescent tubes at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Convention ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

schultz911
not rated yet Dec 11, 2008
Wish i had this in my house :)