September 6, 2006 2:57 PM PDT

IBM wins hybrid supercomputer deal

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.

As first reported by CNET News.com, the machine, dubbed Roadrunner, 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, currently houses the top-ranked machine, IBM's Blue Gene/L, which can perform 280 trillion calculations per second, or 280 teraflops. Roadrunner is designed to nearly quadruple that to a sustained speed of 1 quadrillion floating-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.

IBM and LANL aren't the only outfits gunning for petaflop supercomputers.

Supercomputer specialist Cray plans to build a petaflop machine for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and won a contract to build a machine for the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) that has an option to expand to a petaflop level.

And Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, called RIKEN, said in June its Protein Explorer supercomputer already has reached the petaflop level, though not using the conventional Linpack supercomputing speed test.

See more CNET content tagged:
supercomputer, AMD Opteron, IBM Corp., AMD, server

4 comments

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Wow!
Can we run Vista on it? Or will it ruin everything?
Posted by benjiernmd (123 comments )
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Running Vista on a Super Computer
Is like putting a dinosour behind the wheel of a Porch.

Let's stick with a modern OS like Linux.
Posted by slim-1 (229 comments )
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Playstation 3 Chip...
The Cell processor was not designed for the PS3. The processor was designed to be a system on a chip and incorporates multiple cores and processing streams (kind of like hyper threading). Sony decided it would use the design in the PS3 since the ability to perform many simultaneous calculations would be of benefit for a gaming platform.

It is a next generation processor combining many technologies and has been in development for quite a while. Toshiba would not have participated in this project had it been to provide the PS3 with a processor. It was to provide a chip that could perform many multi-media and high level functions in one package.

The Cell was also designed to be highly scalable in a cluster or multi-processor design.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
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