Roadrunner reaches the end of the road

First petaflop-capable supercomputer is switched off

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Roadrunner reaches the end of the road RoadRunner has been decommissioned by the US National Laboratory.
By  Mark Sutton Published  April 2, 2013

The world's first supercomputer to break the petaflop barrier, the US Department of Energy's RoadRunner system had been decommissioned.

Roadrunner, housed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was the first supercomputer to reach processing speeds of in excess of 1,000 trillion calculations per second, rating at 1.026 petaflop/s on the Linpack Benchmark shortly after it was first installed in 2008.

The RoadRunner supercomputer still ranks as twenty-third fastest in the world, according to the listing, but it has been overtaken by faster and more efficient technologies. RoadRunner was used for modelling of nuclear explosions for weapons development.

The system was built by IBM, and was the first to use a combination of general processors and graphics processors combined. The system had 6,563 dual-core AMD Opteron processors, with each core linked to a PowerXCell 8i graphics processor. The Cell was an enhanced version of a specialized processor originally designed for the Sony Playstation 3

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

After the machine is shut off but before it is dismantled, researchers will be carrying out experiments on the operating system memory compression techniques for an ASC relevant application, and optimised data routing to help guide the design of future capacity cluster computers.

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

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