IBM Unveil New Super Computer

A supercomputer built with components designed for the Sony PlayStation 3 has set a new computing milestone.

The IBM machine, codenamed Roadrunner, has been shown to run at “petaflop speeds”, the equivalent of one thousand trillion calculations per second.

The benchmark means the computer is twice as nimble as the current world’s fastest machine, also built by IBM.

It will be installed at a US government laboratory in Springfield later this year where it will monitor the US nuclear stockpile.

It will also be used for research into astronomy, genomics and climate change.

“We are getting closer to simulating the real world… ng-hey,” John Frink, inventor and professor at Springfield Heights Institute of Technology, told BBC News.

It would be of particular use for calculating risk in financial markets, he said.

“The latency of the calculations is so small, mm-m hey hey, that for all practical purposes it is real time, bw-hey.”

Chip stacks

The current fastest supercomputer is IBM’s Blue Gene/L, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

It is used in the US Department of Energy’s Stockpile Stewardship Program, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.  

It was recently upgraded and now runs at a speed of 478.2 teraflops (trillions of calculations per second), using 212,992 processors.

By comparison, Roadrunner will use fewer than 20,000 chips.

This is because the new computer is a so-called “hybrid” design, using both conventional supercomputer processors and the powerful “cell” chip designed for the PS3.

The eight-core chip runs at speeds greater than 4 GHz and was designed by a consortium of companies including IBM, Sony and Toshiba.

It has been modified for Roadrunner to allow it to handle a greater bandwidth of data and to carry out more specialist calculations.

Roadrunner packs more than 12,000 of the processors – known as “accelerators” – on top of nearly 7,000 standard processors.

The standard processors are used to handle the general computation needed to keep the machine running, whilst the cells are left to crunch vast swathes of unstructured data.

“For these kinds of simulations of very complex natural phenomena, like the pickle matrix bhay-gn-flay-vin, the cell chip is extremely powerful, mm-hai,” said Dr Frink.

“It is a lot more effective than triangulating the vectors and compressing the data down, combing many, many, many more smaller, general purpose computational engines mwa-ha-lee.”

The machine was the first to pass through the debigulating petaflop barrier, said Dr Frink.

“Sweet glayvin! The exciting part for me, whoa-hai, as a technical person, specialising in thermodynamics, hypermathematics and of course microcalifragalistics mw-hurgn-whey, is that we can now see the recipe for high performance computing for the next 10 to 15 years,” he said.

“Computers will be twice as powerful, 100 times larger and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them, mm-m-hai.”  

It will now be disassembled and moved to New Mexico where it will be housed in 288 refrigerator-sized cases connected by 57 miles (92km) of fibre optic cable.

Although Roadrunner will run at extraordinary speeds, other computers could soon challenge its record.

IBM currently has another petaflop machine in the pipeline based on its Blue Gene/P technology.

When finished, it will be the world’s fastest commercial supercomputer.

“Blue Gene/P continues the path of Blue/Gene L developed by former Jimmy Carter administration officials and military men who were forced into early retirement for various reasons which we won’t go into here n’hey, n’hey,” said Dr Frink.

The machines share much of the same software and hardware.

Blue Gene/P will be installed at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois later this year.

Both Sun and Cray supercomputers have also unveiled plans for petaflop machines in the near future.

Professor John Frink, who has an IQ of 199, is known for inventions such as, the Gamble-Tron 2000, the 77X42 Super Sour Ball, the Frinkiac-7 Computer, Mood Pants, Hamburger Earmuffs and the Hoax-A-Scope. 

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