It's No Game: IBM Uses PlayStation Chip For New Supercomputer - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Hardware & Infrastructure

It's No Game: IBM Uses PlayStation Chip For New Supercomputer

IBM is working with Los Alamos to install the first phase of the latest supercomputer, dubbed Roadrunner, by next month. The hybrid machine will get a speed boost enabling it to break the petaflop barrier when the Cell processors are added to AMD's Opteron technology.

By harnessing a processor originally built for the upcoming Sony PlayStation 3, IBM is building a new supercomputer that's expected to break the petaflop barrier by topping speeds of 1,000 trillion calculations per second.

The new computer, code-named Roadrunner, is a joint project between IBM and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where it will be installed. Henry Brandt, a senior technical staff member with IBM, said the supercomputer will be built in two phases. The first phase, which cost Congress $35 million, consists of a base cluster that runs on the Linux operating system and uses IBM System x 3755 servers based on AMD Opteron technology.

That phase is slated to be shipped to the national lab next month.

But the computer's real speed boost will come in late in 2007 or early 2008, when the second phase, which doesn't yet have a price tag, rolls out. At that point, the cluster will be upgraded with the addition of Cell processors, which were originally designed for video game platforms. The hybrid machine will run both types of clusters, boosting peak performance to an expected 1.6 petaflops.

"General microprocessors are built to do everything quite well," says Addison Snell of IDC. "Specialized calculations that are highly repeated can be off-loaded to the game processor."

Snell says the real challenge lies in building software sophisticated enough to work with the hardware.

"It's difficult to write an application to divide the work between two different processors," he explains. "The program has to be smart enough to look at the calculation and assign it to this process or that process. You're essentially rewriting applications from the ground up. It's going to be a lot of work to get it to work."

Corporate Uses

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration is pushing the supercomputer project forward.

Brandt explained that the government stopped testing nuclear weapons in Nevada in the '90s, but it still needs to maintain the nuclear warheads that it has in stockpiles. "Without the ability to test them, there's aging issues," he says. "Their requirements are extreme because of the scale of the computations. You have to simulate the [nuclear warhead] stockpile aging process in a very precise way."

But the national laboratories won't be the only ones taking advantage of these supercomputers.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Slideshows
7 Technologies You Need to Know for Artificial Intelligence
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  7/1/2019
Commentary
A Practical Guide to DevOps: It's Not that Scary
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  7/5/2019
Commentary
Diversity in IT: The Business and Moral Reasons
James M. Connolly, Editorial Director, InformationWeek and Network Computing,  6/20/2019
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
A New World of IT Management in 2019
This IT Trend Report highlights how several years of developments in technology and business strategies have led to a subsequent wave of changes in the role of an IT organization, how CIOs and other IT leaders approach management, in addition to the jobs of many IT professionals up and down the org chart.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll