Computers break the Petaflop Boundry Soon the Quintillion barrior

By INL 10 July 2008 Updated July 2010

Computers soon to move faster than the speed of light ?

UPDATE August 2010

Researchers at DARPA this week announced a program aimed at building extreme scale computers that exceed current peta-scale computers to achieve the mind-altering speed of one quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second.

A new crop of supercomputers is breaking down the quintillion speed barrier, pushing high-performance computing into a new realm that could change science more profoundly than at any time since Galileo, leading researchers say.

According to DARPA: "Advances in Commercial Off-The-Shelf systems performances were enabled by increases in clock speed, decreases in supply voltage, and growth in transistor count. These technology trends have hit a performance wall where increasing clock speed results in unacceptably large power increases, and decreasing voltage causes increasing susceptibility to transient and permanent errors. Only increasing transistor count continues to drive performance increases, with value only if energy can be minimized while optimizing the ability to efficiently utilize available concurrency.

June 10 2009 -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) announced Monday that its new supercomputer "Roadrunner" as it has been named had successfully crossed the Petaflop boundary by performed 1,000 trillion calculations per second -- the fastest in the world.

Roadrunner is twice as fast as IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which itself is three times faster than any of the world's other supercomputers, according to IBM.

To put this into perspective, if each of the 6 billion people on earth had a hand calculator and worked together on a calculation 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, it would take 46 years to do what Roadrunner would do in one day.

Roadrunner as it has will be used by the DoE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to perform calculations that vastly improve the ability to certify that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile is reliable without conducting underground nuclear tests, according to a statement released by DoE.

    Roadrunner will be housed at NNSA's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The laboratory worked with manufacturer IBM for six years to develop the super machine, which can meet "the nation's evolving national security needs."

The 100-million-dollar machine has redefined the frontier of supercomputing by crossing the one petaflop threshold.

    A "flop" is an acronym meaning floating-point operations per second. One petaflop is 1,000 trillion operations per second.

With Moore's law still going strong we can expect this speed to be doubling in the next 2 two years.It is said that the human mind is working in the vacinity of the 16 Petaflops per second.

 This new superfast computer will also offer important access to track the aging nuclear weapon stockpile in the United States.     Most nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile were produced anywhere from 30 to 40 years ago, and no new nuclear weapons have been produced since the end of the Cold War, according to the DoE.

    Since President George Bush ended underground nuclear testing in 1992, the United States has relied on science-based research and development to extend the lifetime of the current weapons in the stockpile.

    Therefore, NNSA's ability to model the extraordinary complexity of nuclear weapons systems is essential to maintaining confidence in the performance of the aging stockpile, said the DoE

© 2008 INL - All Rights Reserved

NB: A supercomputer is a computer that performs at or near the currently highest operational rate for computers

An observations:

  • If you don’t have a spare $100 million to spend on a supercomputer, just wait ~20 years and you’ll get the same power on your desktop for a few hundred dollars.