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IBM Roadrunner supercomputer shuttered over power usage

updated 06:58 am EDT, Mon April 1, 2013

Shutdown of AMD, Cell-based supercomputer despite #22 ranking

The Los Alamos National Laboratory is shutting down its Roadrunner supercomputer, after deeming it too energy inefficient. Constructed by IBM in 2008, the five-year-old supercomputer was at one point the fastest in the world after achieving a speed exceeding one petaflop: one million billion calculations per second.

Roadrunner used two kinds of processors to perform its calculations. Over 6,500 dual-core AMD Opteron processors were paired with a Cell processor, a modified version of what powers the Sony PlayStation 3/ Housed in 288 IBM BladeCenter racks, it used 80TB of RAM, required more than 57 miles of fiber optic cable, and took up 6,000 square foot of space.

The machine's power requirement is why the laboratory is ultimately shutting down the system. Ars Technica writes that Roadrunner required 2,345 kW to hit 1.042 petaflops for its global ranking position of 22, while the system at number 21 required 1,177kW for a similar result, and the marginally slower supercomputer at #23 reached 1.035 petaflops by consuming 493kW.

A statement from Los Alamos outlined its decision to close Roadrunner by stating what similar upcoming systems need to do. "Future supercomputers will need to improve on Roadrunner's energy efficiency to make the power bill affordable." After being shut down, researchers will have one month to perform experiments on operating system memory compression techniques, something that could not be performed while Roadrunner was in operation.

Current top performer in the Top 500 Supercomputer Sites rankings is the Nvidia-powered Titan at Oak Ridge, which achieved 17.59 petaflops during a benchmark.

by MacNN Staff



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