Thursday, July 10, 2008

Beme: Supercomputer Update

Supercomputers stand on the frontline of processing capacity. They are used to understand the most complex problems facing humanity today, such as, the consequences of global warming, the danger from nuclear stockpiles, and the nature of biophysical systems. The fastest supercomputer in the world is IBM’s Roadrunner.

BlueGene/L laid the foundation

Created by IBM and the United States Department of Energy, Blue Gene/L held the world's fastest computer title from November 2004 to June 2008, when it was surpassed by Roadrunner. BlueGene/L two main goals are: to advance understanding of the mechanism behind protein folding and to explore novel ideas in massively parallel machine architecture and software. BlueGene’s creators and collaborators are exploring a growing list of applications including financial modeling and quantum chemistry.

Roadrunner becomes world’s fastest computer

Created by IBM for the U.S. Department of Energy to calculate and monitor the risk of aging nuclear stockpiles, Roadrunner became the fastest computer in May by achieving a speed record of 1.026 petaflops (a petaflop is 1000 trillion instructions per second). Roadrunner’s architecture essentially consists of 13,000 advanced Sony Playstation III processors in addition to 7,000 AMD Opteron Processors. This hybrid processor system makes Roadrunner different from other supercomputers that tend to run on one processing system. The hybrid system allows Roadrunner to delegate computing tasks to either one of the two systems, resulting in more efficient overall processing.

Anton poised to leapfrog other supercomputers

Recent reports claim that the privately funded Anton supercomputer nears completion and has the potential to leapfrog the current supercomputer processing capacity by as much as a half decade. The Anton developers aim to investigate the folding of protein molecules to aid in the design of drugs that simulate the biological activity of different molecules. Anton will possess massive parallelism (512 specialized processors working together) and while BlueGene/L can only simulate molecular interactions about a femtosecond long (one billionth of one millionth of a second), Anton will have the capacity to look at much longer timescales with the hope of discovering new kinds of biological processes that would not otherwise be observable.

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