American military supercomputer sets new record

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A military supercomputer made from cell processors used in video game consoles has reached a computing milestone: 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.

The new machine is more than twice as powerful as the IBM BlueGene/L, which was the previous fastest supercomputer.

Dubbed the Roadrunner, the new machine cost $133 million and was built by engineers and scientists from IBM and Los Alamos National Laboratory. It will maily be used to solve classified military problems, such as performing calculations to make sure nuclear weapons work correctly as they age.

The power of the Roadrunner is mind-blowing: if the world’s population of six billion people used hand calculators to perform calculations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it would take them 46 years to do what the Roadrunner can do in one day.

The Roadrunner is made of 12,960 chips which are improved versions of the IBM Cell processor, and other AMD Opteron server processors. It has 116,640 processing cores. The supercomputer needs three megawatts of power, which is the amount needed to power a large suburban shopping center.

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