Fact Sheet & Background: Roadrunner Smashes the Petaflop Barrier

Armonk, NY - 09 Jun 2008: In 2006, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration selected Los Alamos National Laboratory as the development site for Roadrunner and IBM as the computer’s designer and builder. Roadrunner, named after the New Mexico state bird, cost about $100 million, and was a three-phase project to deliver the world’s first “hybrid” supercomputer – one powerful enough to operate at one petaflop (one thousand trillion calculations per second). That’s twice as fast as the current No.1 rated IBM Blue Gene system at Lawrence Livermore National Lab – itself nearly three times faster than the leading contenders on the current TOP 500 list of worldwide supercomputers.

Applications for Cell-based hybrid supercomputing include: calculating cause and effect in capital markets in real-time, supercomputers in financial services can instantly predict the ripple effect of a stock market change throughout the markets. In medicine, complex 3-D renderings of tissues and bone structures will happen in real-time, as patients are being examined.

How fast is a petaflop?
Roadrunner operates at speeds exceeding one petaflop -- one thousand trillion calculations per second -- or one million billion calculations per second; or one quadrillion calculations per second.

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Lead engineer Don Grice of IBM inspects the world's fastest computer in the company's Poughkeepsie, NY plant. The computer nicknamed "Roadrunner" was built for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration and will be housed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. IBM engineers in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Rochester, Minn., Austin, Texas and Yorktown Heights, N.Y., worked on the computer, the first to break a milestone known as a "petaflop" -- the ability to calculate 1,000-trillion operations every second. The computer packs the power of 100,000 laptops -- a stack 1.5 miles high. Roadrunner will primarily be used to ensure national security, but will also help scientists perform research into energy, astronomy, genetics and climate change.

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