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RealTime IT News

'RoadRunner' First to Supercomputer Finish Line

IBM has won a bid to supply the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with its latest supercomputer..

IBM  said its aim is to build a system capable of a sustained speed of up to 1,000 trillion calculations per second, or one petaflop .

Codenamed "Roadrunner," the hybrid system will be the first supercomputer to use IBM's Cell Broadband Engine (Cell B.E.) processor. While acknowledged as a very sophisticated processor, it's especially impressive that the Cell, which will power Sony's PlayStation 3 console, is making the leap to the supercomputer platform.

The other part of the hybrid design includes AMD  x86 processors. Over 16,000 AMD Opteron processors will be included and about an equal number of Cell B.E. processors. The supercomputer will be used to handle a broad spectrum of scientific and commercial applications.

The system will be completed in stages. IBM will begin shipping the new supercomputer to the DOE facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory later this year, with completion of the installation and acceptance anticipated in 2008.

IBM said the supercomputer will be built entirely from commercially available hardware and based on the Linux operating system. IBM System x 3755 servers based on AMD Opteron technology will be deployed in conjunction with IBM BladeCenter H systems with Cell B.E. technology.

"This installation with Los Alamos and IBM demonstrates the compelling benefits from industry leaders innovating around an open platform," said Marty Seyer, senior vice president, Commercial Segment, AMD, in a statement.

The new system will actually take up a relatively small amount of space for a supercomputer of such capability and considerable hardware assets. IBM expects the system to "only" require 12,000 square feet of floor space, about the size of three basketball courts. At the same time, the system will employ the latest advanced cooling and power management technologies to minimize energy consumption.

IBM said typical compute processes, file I/O, and communication activity will be handled by AMD Opteron processors while more complex and repetitive elements - ones that traditionally consume the majority of supercomputer resources - will be directed to the array of Cell B.E. processors.