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End of the Line For Roadrunner Supercomputer


An engineer inspecting the Roadrunner supercomputer.

IBM lead engineer Don Grice inspecting the Roadrunner supercomputer in the company's Poughkeepsie, N.Y., plant, five years ago; the supercomputer is being retired this week.

Credit: Associated Press/IBM

The Roadrunner supercomputer, housed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LLNL), will be decommissioned this Sunday because it has been replaced by smaller, faster, more efficient, and less-expensive systems.

In 2008, Roadrunner became the first system to break the petaflop barrier by processing just over a quadrillion mathematical calculations per second. The supercomputer has been used over the last five years to model viruses and unseen parts of the universe, to better understand lasers, and for nuclear weapons work.

Los Alamos is currently using a supercomputer called Cielo, which is slightly faster than Roadrunner, takes up less space, and costs about $54 million, compared to Roadrunner's $121 million cost.

In the next 10 to 20 years, it's expected that the world's supercomputers will be capable of breaking the exascale barrier, or one quintillion calculations per second, notes LLNL's Kevin Roark.

Roadrunner is still among the 25 fastest supercomputers in the world.

"Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer," says LLNL's Gary Grider. "Specialized processors are being included in new ways on new systems and being used in novel ways. Our demonstration with Roadrunner caused everyone to pay attention."

From Associated Press
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