Roadrunner was always expected to be fast out of the blocks. And after a test run one night in the city of Poughkeepsie, New York, its creators are far from disappointed.
Built from microchips originally destined for games consoles, Roadrunner is the world’s latest supercomputer. Yesterday it was officially crowned the fastest computer around, having performed a record million billion calculations per second.
As an indication of how fast this is, manufacturers explained that if 6 billion people were to do one sum a second on calculator, it would take 46 years to do what RoadRunner could do in a day. The world’s first supercomputer, the Cray 1 built in the mid-1970s, would take 1,500 years to finish a calculation that Roadrunner would perform in two hours.
David Turek, vice-president of IBM’s supercomputing programs, likened Roadrunner to “a very souped-up Sony PlayStation 3”. The $120m (£61m) supercomputer was named after New Mexico’s state bird, and is more than twice as fast as the previous record holder, another IBM machine called Blue Gene.
By harnessing the power of 116,640 processors working in concert, Roadrunner surpassed a milestone in computing power, to enter a new era of what those familiar with such things call petaflop computing. Peta means a million billion, while a flop is a type of calculation.
“We had teams working around the clock,” said IBM’s Kevin Roark. “Once they got it hooked up, it was just a couple of days before they broke the record. Everyone here is ecstatic. There were people who doubted it was even possible.” The record was broken at 3.30am on May 26.