First Petaflop Supercomputer Now Semi-Retired in Los Alamos

By Ed Silverstein April 01, 2013

A historic supercomputer – which was the first to operate in petaflops – has been retired after five years of use. “Roadrunner” was decommissioned this weekend and continues to be based at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

It features 12,960 IBM PowerXCell 8i processors and 6480 AMD Opteron dual-core processors, according to news reports. Also, it had 114 TB of memory and about 1.09 million TB of storage.

It was ranked recently as the 22nd most powerful supercomputer in the world.

The IBM supercomputer will still be used for various experiments, including finding ways to compress operating system memory and optimize data routing.

It cost $125 million to build, and was made from commercially available parts. It was not particularly energy efficient, however, with 2345 kW needed to operate it at full power, compared to more economical supercomputers that were built more recently.

“Roadrunner was a truly pioneering idea," Gary Grider, deputy division leader of the High Performance Computing Division at the laboratory, said in a statement quoted by PC Magazine. “Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer. Specialized processors are being included in new ways on new systems, and being used in novel ways. Our demonstration with Roadrunner caused everyone to pay attention."

Roadrunner was built to model “the decay of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, under the auspices of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program,” ExtremeTech said.

The Los Alamos lab, the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California are now using a supercomputer called Cielo. It operates faster than Roadrunner.

On the horizon for supercomputers are those which operate at exascale speed (1,000 petaflops or more). The U.S. Department of Energy will build the first exaflop computer in 2020, ExtremeTech said.

IBM wants to build an exaflop supercomputer before 2024. It will be used for the Square Kilometer Array — a 3,000-kilometer-wide telescope.




Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Contributor

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