Petaflops from IBM and Sun

New IBM supercomputer achieves petaflop

IBM has devised a new Blue Gene supercomputer–the Blue Gene/P–that will be capable of processing more than 3 quadrillion operations a second, or 3 petaflops, a possible record. Blue Gene/P is designed to continuously operate at more than 1 petaflop in real-world situations.

Blue Gene/P marks a significant milestone in computing. Last November, the Blue Gene/L was ranked as the most powerful computer on the planet: it topped out at 280 teraflops, or 280 trillion operations a second during continuous operation.

The chip inside Blue Gene/P consists of four PowerPC 450 cores running at 850MHz each. A 2×2 foot circuit board containing 32 of the Blue Gene/P chips can churn out 435 billion operations a second. Thirty two of these boards can be stuffed into a 6-foot-high rack.

The chip inside the Blue Gene/L contained two PowerPC cores running at 700MHz.

The 1-petaflop Blue Gene/P comes with 294,912 processors and takes up 72 racks in all. Hitting 3 petaflops takes an 884,736-processor, 216-rack cluster, according to IBM. The chips and other components are linked together in a high-speed optical network.

Sun seeking supercomputing glory

The TACC system will provide a peak performance of around 500 teraflops, or 500 trillion operations a second. A fully built-out Constellation system, with contemporary components, could hit a peak of 2 petaflops, or 2 quadrillion operations per second.

The linchpin in the system is the switch, the piece of hardware that conducts traffic between the servers, memory and data storage. Code-named Magnum, the switch comes with 3,456 ports, a larger-than-normal number that frees up data pathways inside these powerful computers.

“We are looking at a factor-of-three improvement over the current best system at an equal number of nodes,” said Andy Bechtolsheim, chief architect and senior vice president of the systems group at Sun. “We have been somewhat absent in the supercomputer market in the last few years.”

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