Feeds

US nuke boffins smash petaflop barrier with 'Roadrunner'

Cell/Opteron chimera supercomputer whups 44 mouse brains

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The US nuclear weapons programme has revealed a new supercomputer made from consumer processors, which has broken the petaflop barrier just about in line with projections. The machine, known as "Roadrunner", uses both Cell and Opteron based technology.

The New York Times reports this morning that Roadrunner - named in an allusion to the state bird of New Mexico, the computer's home - can crank 1.026 quadrillion (1.026x1015) floating-point operations per second. It was developed by the Los Alamos national laboratory, home of the nuclear bomb, in conjunction with specialists from IBM.

“We’ve proved some skeptics wrong,” said Michael Anastasio, director of the Los Alamos lab. “This gives us a window into a whole new way of computing. We can look at phenomena we have never seen before.”

Last year, the TOP500 supercomputer-watch project predicted that the first petaflop machine would come into service about halfway through 2008 - so Roadrunner has made its entrance pretty much on cue. The previous record holder was a half-petaflop IBM BlueGene/L job based at the Lawrence Livermore atom lab in California.

The nuke boffins want Roadrunner to carry out extremely complicated calculations involved in maintaining the US atomic weapons stockpile. America has lately avoided building any new nukes, and parts of its existing armoury are now ageing beyond the point where they would normally be withdrawn from service - or at least tested to see if they still worked. But there's a strong desire nowadays to avoid test explosions.

As an alternative, the atom brainboxes reckon that sufficiently advanced computing will be able to correctly simulate nukes' behaviour if triggered, allowing America's nuke force readiness to be validated without any messy live tests. That's where Roadrunner comes in.

However, before it gets taken over by classified weapons programmes, it seems that there will be opportunities for other kinds of science and engineering. The NYT says that the new supermachine will be used to check out new climate models - one of the toughest computing challenges.

The Roadrunner reportedly cost $133m, and requires 3 megawatts of power to run. Programming it is said to be no joke, requiring simultaneous use of three different tool sets to cover all of the mighty machine's 116,640 cores.

Various media-bite indications of the Roadrunner's puissance have already been offered. At Vulture Central, using the generally accepted standard of 23 teraflops to an adjusted mouse brain, we calculate that one Roadrunner is approximately as intelligent as 45 mice.®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Docker's app containers are coming to Windows Server, says Microsoft
MS chases app deployment speeds already enjoyed by Linux devs
IBM storage revenues sink: 'We are disappointed,' says CEO
Time to put the storage biz up for sale?
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Windows 10: Forget Cloudobile, put Security and Privacy First
But - dammit - It would be insane to say 'don't collect, because NSA'
Symantec backs out of Backup Exec: Plans to can appliance in Jan
Will still provide support to existing customers
VMware's tool to harden virtual networks: a spreadsheet
NSX security guide lands in intriguing format
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.