IBM’s Roadrunner supercomputer is a 6000 square foot monstrosity currently housed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. It was installed in early 2008, and in May of that year managed to score a sustained processing rate of more than 1.0 petaflops – a world first.
It was a world first in more than just capability, however, as the Roadrunner offered a unique approach to building supercomputers. Rather than designing all the components from scratch, this machine used a number of off the shelf parts; it employed a hybrid architecture composed of 12,960 IBM PowerXCell 8i CPUs and 6,480 AMD Opteron dual-core CPUs, all installed in racks of blade servers connected with InfiniBand interconnects and 55 miles of optical cabling.
In addition to keeping costs down – though the final tally still rang up to $125 million – the Roadrunner’s designed allowed for more efficient operation, rating as the fourth-most energy efficient supercomputer in the world, running at just under 445 megaflops per watt.
Even though it’s nearing the end of its lifespan, Roadrunner still rates among the top 25 supercomputers in the world. It’s replacement, Cielo, is a Cray-designed supercomputer, which takes up less space while coming in faster and cheaper, to boot. Cielo cost just $54 million to build, with construction and delivery starting in late 2010.
Cielo currently holds the #18 position on the list of top supercomputers, while Roadrunner sits at #22.