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Supercomputer to Hit 1.6 Petaflops With 16,000 Cell Chips 260

Posted by kdawson
from the you-do-the-math dept.
tygerstripes writes, "IBM has announced that they are gearing up to build the world's fastest supercomputer, more than four times faster than the reigning champ, IBM's BlueGene/L. Nicknamed 'Roadrunner,' the new machine will be a hybrid of off-the-shelf CPUs and Cell chips designed for the PS3. Roadrunner is to be installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, occupying 1,100 square metres of floorspace (that's a square about 110 feet on a side). According to the BBC: 'The computer will contain 16,000 standard processors working alongside 16,000 Cell processors... each Cell is capable of 256 billion calculations per second.'"
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Supercomputer to Hit 1.6 Petaflops With 16,000 Cell Chips

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  • Now... (Score:5, Funny)

    by ronadams (987516) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @01:52PM (#16060765) Homepage
    OS/2 compiles your homemade C code faster than you've ever seen before!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by tha_mink (518151)
      Wow, Imagine a ... ah nevermind.
    • by cashman73 (855518)
      Imagine how well this thing could play Duke Nukem Forever ?!?! When does that game come out? ;-)
      • by Pharmboy (216950)
        Imagine how well this thing could play Duke Nukem Forever ?!?! When does that game come out? ;-)

        Actually, this will be the "minimum requirements" to play DMF by the time it comes out. Obviously you need more RAM if you want to experience the advanced features...
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @01:52PM (#16060772)
    Just in time for the Vista RC1 release!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 07, 2006 @01:53PM (#16060776)
    I guess.
  • IBM is also building a slightly slower computer, called "Wile E. Coyote", which is slightly slower. They are currently attempting to work out the bugs, as it keeps crashing...
    • by steveo777 (183629) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @01:57PM (#16060815) Homepage Journal
      They're currently thumbing through ACME cataloges for spare rockets and rollerskate. That should speed things up.
    • by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:00PM (#16060851)
      has been identifed as sub-standard components delivered by a third party company called "acme".

      These components had a tendency to either explode at in-opportune moments, or behave in a manner that while was true to the letter of their description was totally ineffective for the desired purpose.

      At the moment each side is gathering its hoards of lawyers and all involved are jumping up and down, waving thigh-bones in the air and screaming incomprehensible abuse at each other.
      • by mickwd (196449)
        has been identifed as sub-standard components delivered by a third party company called "acme".

        These components had a tendency to either explode at in-opportune moments, or behave in a manner.....


        You said "acme" - I think you meant "Sony".
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Don853 (978535)
          It's been too long since you've watched Saturday morning cartoons, spoilsport.
      • by reverseengineer (580922) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:57PM (#16061230)
        The unique failure modes of these Acme components, however, have caused IBM researchers to stumble upon a remarkable macroscale quantum effect which may be useful in the development ofquantum computers.

        Apparently, when the Acme Rocket Sled, Acme Giant Rubber Band or the Acme Bat-Man suit reach their point of failure, every particle of the unfortunate user is compelled into a quantum superposition (known as the Chuck Jones state) where the particles of the user appear to exist outside of the normal flow of time, during which the user can apparently communicate with the outside using messages written on signs. The wavefunction collapses, however when the user realizes the peril of the current situation; the user returns to normal time and is contacted catastrophically by the approaching train/TNT detonation/boulder/ground/ground followed by a pursuant boulder.

        IBM scientists believe that useful calculations could be made nearly instantaneously from the perspective of outside observers, if only the user inside the Jones state could be induced to work complex math problems and write the answer on a picket sign, rather than simply using such signs for messages like, "Why Me?", "Not Again!", "?!?!?!?!?!" or "Ouch."

        NASA is also working with Acme to determine the physical mechanism by which the Acme Portable Hole functions.

      • by adam31 (817930)
        These components had a tendency to either explode at in-opportune moments


        Good Lord! Another /. article bogs down into Sony bashing...

        I see through your 'acme' shenanigans.

  • PS3 delayed? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by October_30th (531777) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @01:53PM (#16060781) Homepage Journal
    So, is this the reason why the PS3 release has been delayed?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by networkBoy (774728)
      Sony did say they were having trouble acquiring key components on the assembly line...
      Maybe not so much a joke after all?
      -nB
    • Re:PS3 delayed? (Score:5, Informative)

      by evanbd (210358) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @01:56PM (#16060807)
      No. Sony said it was due to shortages of the blue laser diode in the Blu-ray drives. Also, you'll note they're short a couple million PS3s, not a measley 16000.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by creimer (824291)
      First, there's a shortage of blue diode lasers. Now, there's a shortage of Cell processors. If you were expecting a Sony discount before Christmas, forget about it.
  • Flops? CPS? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cybert4 (994278) * on Thursday September 07, 2006 @01:57PM (#16060810)
    For one, they gloss over whether they mean floating point operations or "calculations" per second. The article seems to equate a flop with "calculations per second". The flop, of course, came from floating point operation. Even then it's vague--is it single, double or double-extended?

    Yes, it's certainly better than the old "megahurts" races. But I think they could come up with something better.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > Yes, it's certainly better than the old "megahurts" races. But I think they could come up with something better.

      Bogomips? [wikipedia.org]
    • Definitely flops (Score:3, Informative)

      by Junta (36770)
      Though not necessarily 64-bit precision flops, as are required for top500 scores... The cell isn't impressive double-precision wise.
    • PR Numbers (Score:2, Informative)

      by scoobrs (779206)
      Here's an explanation. Keep this in mind whenever you read PR about vapor hardware... Most likely the confusion between FLOPS and "calculations per second" is not unlike the confusion between peak PR numbers, peak Linpack results, sustained Linpack results, and sustained application FLOPS. For example, no Cell processor ever reaches the impossible speed of 360 GFLOPS on any real world scientific application because of the real world problems of a slow interface to memory, storage, network, etc. which all
    • Re:Flops? CPS? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by adam31 (817930) <adam31@NOSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @04:29PM (#16061890)
      The flop, of course, came from floating point operation. Even then it's vague--is it single, double or double-extended?

      I was thinking the same thing. Running the numbers, 256 GFlop * 16,000 => 4.096 PFlop @ single precision. So if IBM means SP flops, something is slowing its theoretical max down by 2.5x. But Cell's DP perf yields 18.2 * 16,000 => .292 PFlop @ DP. So that's not it either.

      It's long been rumored that a post-PS3 Cell is in development that can pipeline DP flops. Its max theoretical DP perf would still be half of SP because it's just 2 DP values per 128-bit register instead of 4. AND, if you figure they lower the GHz to 3.2 to cut the heat output in half, you arrive at the magical number... 1.638 PFlop.

      So can we take this as evidence that there now exists a Cell that performs DP calculations pipelined?

  • Feet/Metres/Meters (Score:5, Informative)

    by onion2k (203094) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:03PM (#16060868) Homepage
    Roadrunner is to be installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, occupying 1,100 square metres of floorspace (that's a square about 110 feet on a side)
    Why mix the units like that? It's either 33 meters a side, or its 12,100 square feet. Mixing units is the sort of thing that can only lead to errors.

    And for the record, sqrt(1100m2) = 33.17 meters = 108.83 feet a side. 110 feet per side gets you an extra 24.13 square meters .. enough for 4 interns including desks.
    • by lightyear4 (852813) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:10PM (#16060924) Homepage

      And for the record, sqrt(1100m2) = 33.17 meters = 108.83 feet a side. 110 feet per side gets you an extra 24.13 square meters .. enough for 4 interns including desks.

      You mean in the room WITH the supercomputer? Oooh! I call dibs on the sauna office!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Those 1.17 x 54 foot spaces sound like the ideal workspaces for interns.
    • occupying 1,100 square metres of floorspace (that's a square about 110 feet on a side) It is not abnormal to present both english and metric units in a presentation such as this when you have a diverse audience (the source was the BBC, although it appears the article submitter did his own math to get the side length). 110-108.83 = 1.17 meters, which is 1.06% off. Which is more than acceptable when talking to the "common man" ... now when ordering the carpenting, on the other hand ...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jelle (14827)
      "Why mix the units like that? It's either 33 meters a side, or its 12,100 square feet. Mixing units is the sort of thing that can only lead to errors."

      'Non-metric people' are used to units being mixed up... The solution taken by many is to either give up and think that 'math is difficult', or to only use rounding/approximations for 'quick calculations': '5000 feet per mile' (instead of 5280)...

      Rounding like that is what results in allowing space for the 4 interns... Hurrah for rounding: Where would the inte
    • by raehl (609729) <raehl311@yahooBOHR.com minus physicist> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:59PM (#16061697) Homepage
      Why mix the units like that?

      Training to be a rocket scientist?
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      "Roadrunner is to be installed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, occupying 1,100 square metres of floorspace (that's a square about 110 feet on a side)"
      Why mix the units like that? It's either 33 meters a side, or its 12,100 square feet. Mixing units is the sort of thing that can only lead to errors.

      Well, the original article says it's about 12,000 square feet, but it's the BBC, so they nicely give an approximate in metric of 1,100 square metres since more of their readers might know what that means.

      The po

    • In my defence, I didn't include the botched translation into feet in the original submission. After all, I'm from the UK - it would be yards or Olympic swimming pools.
  • So the price was (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:04PM (#16060882) Journal
    16,000 *600$= 9.6 million. That doesn't seem like much for the biggest super computer.
    • by patio11 (857072)
      Hah, hah, hah.

      Nope, things don't scale linearly, most especially not when you're talking government contracting. For comparison, Red Storm at Sandia National Labs cost $90 million. http://www.techcommjournal.org/PDFSVol3No3/16topte nTC11.pdf [techcommjournal.org] Japan's Earth Simulator was about a quarter billion.
      • by CrazyJim1 (809850)
        Whats even funnier is that I got modded insightful when I was just counting the cost in Playstations. Heh, Slashdot is funny sometimes.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by patio11 (857072)
          Maybe folks were giving you +1 for "If you have a national nuclear R&D budget to spend, you too can afford a PS3?"

          Other government bodies that could buy a PS3:

          NASA, but they'd crash it into something and want a new one.

          The IRS, but it would depreciate to 20% of its value the day they bought it, unless they sold it on eBay in case its fair value would be $10,000 regardless of the auction final price.

          The Marines, except they play Wii, because Marines will only touch a console made for Real Men (TM).

          The Na
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by moogleii (704303)
      You've covered the price of one set of 16,000 chips, kinda. What about the other 16,000? And that's just the chips. There's power, cooling, the rest of the hardware, software...
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @04:33PM (#16061920) Homepage
      16,000 *600$= 9.6 million. That doesn't seem like much for the biggest super computer.

      First off, I believe IBM manufactures the cell processors for Sony, so it probably didn't cost them that much for the actual processors.

      But, don't forget the $58 million in IBM consultants who built the damned thing. That's the real cost of this. ;-)

      Cheers
      • by 1lus10n (586635)
        Believe it or not, we are not ALL consultants at big blue. Some of us actually test, configure and ship it out for consultants to *polish* it.

        And yes by *WE* I am including myself and the people I work with on this project. (and yes incase you didnt figure it out, I work at IBM)
        • by Pharmboy (216950)
          Believe it or not, we are not ALL consultants at big blue.

          So are you a lawyer or in marketing? ;)
  • State Bird (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:05PM (#16060886)
    The roadrunner is also the state bird of New Mexico, location of LANL.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadrunner_(bird) [wikipedia.org]

    It was always ironic to see them running up and down the road in front of my grandparents home.
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      there were a lot more to see back when LANL was LASL :)
    • by Splab (574204)
      Roadrunner is also the nickname for the guy/gal who manages to get the fastest speedup in the cluster computing and architecture course taught at DIKU (www.diku.dk). (And to top off the fun, each assignment is based around the roadrunner cartoons)
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Ironic is not coincident.
    • It was always ironic to see them running up and down the road in front of my grandparents home.

      Was it because your grandparents lived in Vermont? Come on - don't leave us in suspense!

  • by mendaliv (898932) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:05PM (#16060891)
    Interesting sidenote in the article not mentioned here:
    "The laboratory is owned by the US Department of Energy (DOE). Eventually the machine could be used for a programme that ensures the US nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe and reliable, the DOE said in a statement."

    Why do I get a weird feeling that I've seen this sort of thing in one too many movies?
    • *draws service revolver*

      Turn your key, sir!
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:08PM (#16060904)
    From TFC (caption):
    The cell processor was originally designed for Sony's PlayStation 3
    I'm sure this comes as a surprise to IBM and Toshiba.

    And this is from BBC News, no less. <sigh>
    • They were responsible for the development of the Cell processor alongside Sony.
  • Lame (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wolvie MkM (661535) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:08PM (#16060906)
    And still it only runs F.E.A.R. at 25fps... weak...
  • I thought BlueGene/P was targeting a petaflop?
    I don't think this Cell based thing is its replacement. If BGP is still coming, it should be coming soon:
    link [spscicomp.org]
  • by syntap (242090) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:16PM (#16060958)
    we'll laugh at such a large room full of computer equipment, the equivalent of which will be powering our mobile communications devices in a 150mm x 150mm package.
  • by Skraut (545247) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:27PM (#16061035) Journal
    But is it fast enough to figure out the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?
    • by PixelSlut (620954)
      Oh yeah, that's the easy part. Next they're going to build an even more powerful computer that's going to compute the question!
  • by DigitalDreg (206095) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:34PM (#16061086)
    http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/power/cell/ [ibm.com]

    The toolchain and a simulator are freely available and run on Fedora Core 5 systems. Take a look for yourself.
  • Is this IBM's new approach to clusters/supercomputers? We just bought a relatively small (i.e. 176 processors) system from them... half is Power5+ and the other half is Xeon.

  • by Klaidas (981300)
    It's big. It's powerful. But, in simple human talk, how much GHz does that thing have?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by suggsjc (726146)
      Forgive the oversimplification...
      GHz is a measurement of how fast the clock cycle of a processor is. This system will have lots of processors, that will contibute to the computing power (# of flops [floating point operations]) of the overall system. So, GHz isn't a good measurement. However, I'll try to give you a meaningless comparison.

      From wikipedia:

      A relatively cheap but modern desktop computer using, for example, a Pentium 4 or Athlon 64 CPU, typically runs at a clock frequency in excess of 2 GHz

  • Big deal (Score:3, Funny)

    by I Like Pudding (323363) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @03:38PM (#16061545)
    I can do 1.8pflops with a #2 pencil, some scratch paper, and a few grams of peyote.
  • IBM says it will start shipping the new supercomputer later this year.

    It took me a beat to get it.

  • According to today's Austin American Statesman article [statesman.com] , the other 16,000+ CPUs in this machine will be AMD Opterons.


    And, the article also confirms that the machine will indeed be running Linux.

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