Military Supercomputer Sets Record


New York Times – June 9, 2008

I have been ranting for quite some time on the need to dedicate more intensive computing resources to climate models.  This would allow the models to become more granular and to take into account real world data in the analysis as opposed to just boundary conditions.

As always, the military gets the really cool computers. It appears, thought, that their new amazing computer is going to be available for climate scientists for a little while before it gets dedicated to solving nuclear bomb design issues.

An American military supercomputer, assembled from components originally designed for video game machines, has reached a long-sought-after computing milestone by processing more than 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.

The new $133 million supercomputer, called Roadrunner in a reference to the state bird of New Mexico, was devised and built by engineers and scientists at I.B.M. and Los Alamos National Laboratory, based in Los Alamos, N.M. It will be used principally to solve classified military problems to ensure that the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons will continue to work correctly as they age.

Before it is placed in a classified environment, it will also be used to explore scientific problems like climate change. The greater speed of the Roadrunner will make it possible for scientists to test global climate models with higher accuracy.

To put the performance of the machine in perspective, …  if all six billion people on earth used hand calculators and performed calculations 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it would take them 46 years to do what the Roadrunner can in one day.

By running programs that find a solution in hours or even less time — compared with as long as three months on older generations of computers — petaflop machines like Roadrunner have the potential to fundamentally alter science and engineering, supercomputer experts say. Researchers can ask questions and receive answers virtually interactively and can perform experiments that would previously have been impractical.

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2 thoughts on “Military Supercomputer Sets Record”

  1. tim maguire says:

    As always, the military gets the really cool computers.

    I love that it was made from video game parts–it’s really the 13 year old boys who get the really cool computers.

    It will be used principally to…ensure that the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons will continue to work correctly as they age.

    I’m more concerned about what Russia’s stockpile might be doing as it ages.

  2. codeslinger says:

    very cool…..

    but it’s ironic that a computer designed for doing energy research is in the
    dessert. Can you imagine the amount of power needed to keep it cool?


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