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A Computer for the Clouds

August 1, 2008

IEEE Spectrum: Inside Technology


In May an IBM-built supercomputer called Roadrunner crunched through a quadrillion floating-point operations per second, officially becoming the first supercomputer to break the petaflop barrier. But unofficially, that barrier had fallen two years before, when MDGRAPE-3, a machine at Japan's Riken Institute, in Wako, powered up. Accepted benchmarking methods ruled out that performance because MDGRAPE-3 is a purpose-built computer, able to model molecular interactions and little else. Yet the machine cost Riken just one-tenth of Roadrunner's price--more than US$100million--and consumes just one-tenth the power.

About NERSC and Berkeley Lab
The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that serves as the primary high-performance computing center for scientific research sponsored by the Office of Science. Located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the NERSC Center serves more than 7,000 scientists at national laboratories and universities researching a wide range of problems in combustion, climate modeling, fusion energy, materials science, physics, chemistry, computational biology, and other disciplines. Berkeley Lab is a DOE national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy. »Learn more about computing sciences at Berkeley Lab.