IBM has won a deal to build a supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory that will pair more than 16,000 AMD Opteron processors with more than 16,000 Cell processors to try to reach a new computing milestone for the company.
Dubbed Roadrunner, the supercomputer uses a hybrid approach that combines a conventional cluster of Opteron servers with Cell chips that handle some of the calculating grunt work. Each Cell chip, originally designed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba for the Sony PlayStation 3 video game console, includes eight special-purpose engines that can rapidly perform physics calculations.
IBM and the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced Wednesday that Big Blue had won the contract. Pete Domenici, a Republican senator from New Mexico, where the nuclear weapons lab is located, said of the deal, "It's time to restore LANL to the forefront of computing technology. Together with IBM, the lab will undertake an exciting goal of creating the world's fastest supercomputer."
LANL's sister lab, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, currentlyhouses the top-ranked machine, IBM's Blue Gene/L, which can perform 280trillion calculations per second, or 280 teraflops. Roadrunner isdesigned to nearly quadruple that to a sustained speed of 1 quadrillionfloating-point operations per second, or a petaflop.
Roadrunner, which will run Linux and include software to juggle tasks between the Opteron and Cell processors, will be built using commercially available IBM hardware. That includes System x3755 servers with four Opteron processors apiece and IBM BladeCenter H servers with Cell-based systems.
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