Fastest supercomputer of 2009 is now “obsolete”, has been shut down and will be taken apart

ibm_roadrunner

So you think rocking that dual quad-core processors with 16GB RAM rig makes you cool? Yeah, okay; IBM Roadrunner, the first petaflop supercomputer (one quadrillion floating point operations per second) and the world’s fastest computer in 2009, will run circles around you. Well, it would if it hasn’t been declared obsolete and shut down.

I’m sure most of you must be thinking: how is the #1 supercomputer of 2009, a computer capable of doing petaflops, obsolete in 2013? Because of energy usage.

In terms of speed, IBM Roadrunner — commissioned for use at Los Alamos National Laboratory studying the decay of US nuclear weapons — is still the 22nd most fast computer in the world. However, the Roadrunner is very energy inefficient compared to other supercomputers. For example, as ArsTechnica points out, Roadrunner needs 2,345 kilowatts to run at 1.042 petaflops while a rival supercomputers needs 1,177 kilowatts and 493 kilowatts, respectively, to run at a similar speed. It is because of this energy efficiency (or rather, lack of efficiency) why Roadrunner has been shut down; the “power bill [is no longer] affordable”.

The off switch for Roadrunner was flipped on Sunday, March 31. It is scheduled to be dismantled in a month after it is studied for “operating system memory compression techniques for an ASC relevant application, and optimized data routing to help guide the design of future capacity cluster computers”.

Bye, bye Roadrunner. I wish I could say you will be missed but I didn’t even know of your existence until 30 minutes ago. I hope you will forgive me.

[via ArsTechnica, LANL]

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3 comments

  1. AFPhy6

    Well, I knew of RoadRunner’s existence and of its power requirements. It is amazing to me that we can get as efficient as we do with petaflop class machines.

    I’ve been in many a computer room with temperatures struggling to stay below 35C.