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Informatics: IBM & Department of Energy Unveil Petaflop Supercomputer

IBM and the US Department of Energy announced an historic milestone in computing, which has enormous implications for a variety of issues critical to society, such as healthcare, life science research, climate change, alternative energy, and financial services. IBM's "Roadrunner" supercomputer, installed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to protect the US's national security, hit one-thousand trillion calculations per second, or a "petalfop," in sustained performance. To put the mind-boggling performance in context, it would take the entire population of the earth -- about six billion people -- each working a handheld calculator at the rate of one second per calculation, more than 456 years to do what Roadrunner can do in one day. The performance, which is two-times today's number one supercomputer (from IBM) and three-times the closest competitive system, is driven by the world's first "hybrid" supercomputer -- one that uses Cell processors (the same chips that power today's most popular video games on the Sony Playstation 3), off-the-shelf x86 processors running on standard IBM blade servers, and Linux.. The concept of hybrid systems is an important breakthrough -- it paves the way with software that allows a diversity of commercial and consumer technologies to be linked together for any purpose from a large, shared website to a supercomputer working on a single problem. Roadrunner ushers in a new era for the Internet and Cloud Computing. Until now, supercomputers were isolated, standalone behemoths dedicated to one kind of exotic workload, RoadRunner can provide massive computing power to mainstream applications, shifting computing resources where needed, tacklng larger problems and simulating bigger and more complex systems across industries. For example:

o Medicine. Drive down the cost and improve the acuracy of treaments that can be modeled more effectively before humen trials, speed vaccines for desease and dramatically improve the medical imaging used to diagnose and treat desease.

o Financial Services: Looking at financial risk around the world to predict ripple effects of events around the world.

o Entertainment: Create much more elaborate and realistic worlds on film, TV, games and in internet virtual worlds.

o Weather and climate..create more accurate predictions of major weather events that are dificult to preduct like huricanes and tsunamis, and model climate change patterns based on complex scenarios.

o Oil and gas production. More accurately map underground reservoirs, and analyze the data acquired visually by scientists in the field.

IBM

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