A petaFLOPS is a lot of FLOPS

It's IT Blogwatch: in which IBM launches Roadrunner, a ludicrously-fast supercomputer; and people forget what the 'S' in FLOPS stands for. Not to mention another stupid Photoshop pun...

Sharon Gaudin report: [Oh, ha ha -Ed.]

IBM's Roadrunner supercomputer has smashed the high-tech equivalent of the four-minute mile by breaking the lofty petaflop barrier ... That's about twice as fast as the next-fastest supercomputer, IBM's BlueGene/L, which is based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The new machine would need a single week to run a calculation that the fastest supercomputer 10 years ago would have needed 20 years to complete ... Now IBM is on to the next goal, creating an exascale system. more
Jason Stamper speaks the truth:
1,000 trillion operations per second ... is a lot. The computer will be used to help maintain the US’ nuclear weapons stockpile. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the new computer will also be used to help solve global energy problems and "open new windows of knowledge" in basic research. more
Devin Coldewey groks SI units:
That’s a quadrillion operations per second. I never thought I’d see the number quadrillion attached to anything real at all, but here it is. It uses 13,000 Cell engines and 7,000 AMD dual-core Opterons, all mounted on IBM Blade servers. The statistics are impressive (for instance, it weighs 500,000 pounds). more
Robin Harris describes the nodes:
The new version of the PS3 chip - called a PowerXCell 8i Processor - features 8x faster double-precision floating point and over 25 GB/sec of memory bandwidth. That is the building block of a new and really honking compute node ... [each] consists of 2 dual-core AMD Opterons and 4 PowerXCell 8i’s. Each Opteron has a fast connection to 2 PowerXCells enabling a theoretical 25x boost in floating point performance over a stock Opteron. No one mentioned how much RAM they gave each PowerXCell, but the chip can address 64 GB of RAM, so each compute node could easily support 264 GB of RAM (4×64GB + 2×4GB or more on the Opterons). With over 100 GB/sec of memory bandwidth. We’ll take 3,250 of them. That’s about how many nodes are in the completed Roadrunner. more
Chrys Robyn knows Cell:
Cell's strength is in very predictable workloads (ones it can perform without branch mispredict penalties), very parallelizable workloads (ones that can be distributed over 6-8 SPU's / SPC's) that fit within 256 KB of local storage per SPU (manually managed cache, mapped to main memory). The non-double precision floating point enhanced version's (the version in the PS3) strength is further limited to integer and single precision floating point workloads. Roadrunner's Cell-DP eliminates that last limitation. While video games, encryption, nuke simulations and anything else that involves matrix manipulation can really stretch their legs on such a beast, general purpose computing won't find a benefit. more
Ernst-Jan Pfauth has a daft stat:
The U.S. Department of Energy ... thinks of the supercomputer as a break-through - which is not so hard to imagine - and foresees a bright future, as they expect the Roadrunner to fight global warming ... This sounds all impressive, but I’d like to conclude with a terrific quote from the press release that really shows how incredible this new computer is. Here it comes: 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. more
But Jim Hill says we should take it, "with a pinch of salt":
As a software developer who's worked on the Lab's previous ASC machines (Blue Mountain, Q, Lightning) I can say that once the calculation is run to get a machine atop Jack Dongarra's gee-golly list, it's partitioned, segmented, divided, and subjected to such crappy resource management that if I could trade the entire machine for a pair of coupled 8-core Mac Pros I'd do it in a heartbeat ... so far our experience with ASC has been that when a machine hits that sweet state, they yank it and give us the next one. more
And finally...

Buffer overflow:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 21 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

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