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Communications of the ACM

The profession of IT

Learning For the New Digital Age

Internet graph

An Internet graph rendered using Border Gateway Protocol data points circa 2010.

Credit: Barrett Lyon / The Opte Project

The first of the two accompanying images shows the IBM Blue Gene supercomputer at Argonne Labs. It houses 250,000 processors in 72 cabinets connected by an optical network. It can perform approximately 1015 operations per second—a million times faster than the chip in your smartphone. The image on the next page is a beautiful graph of connections between Internet sites. The Internet is a supercomputer grown from a billion machines and several billion people.

The IBM supercomputer is a wholly electronic machine. It uses a robust design first conceived in the 1940s. Its structure is fixed. It is very good at processing large datasets with deterministic algorithms. It has no intelligence.


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