U.S. retires supercomputer

April 1, 2013 at 4:34 PM

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., April 1 (UPI) -- A supercomputer that was once the fastest in the world -- and the first to break a computing speed milestone -- has been retired, U.S. researchers say.

Five years after becoming the first system to break the petaflop barrier (a quadrillion floating point operations per second), IBM's Roadrunner computer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has been decommissioned, eWeek reported Monday.

The $125 million computer -- which covered 6,000 square feet and held 6,563 dual-core processors and high-performance graphics chips spread out over 296 server racks -- will be dismantled, scientists said.

Its relatively short working life is an example of the extraordinary speed of development and innovation in high-performance supercomputers, they said.

"Roadrunner was a truly pioneering idea," Gary Grider of the laboratory's High Performance Computing Division, said in a statement. "Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer. 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."

Roadrunner helped drive the use of coprocessors and graphics accelerators to create supercomputers, and experts say new designs could be performing 1 quintillion calculations per second, 1,000 times faster than Roadrunner, by 2020.

"Even in death, we are trying to learn from Roadrunner," Grider said.

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