Designed and built by IBM, at a cost of some $130 million, Roadrunner is the world’s fastest supercomputer. It contains 12,960 IBM PowerXCell 8i central processing units, 6,480 AMD dual-core processors, and occupies nearly 6,000 square feet at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Roadrunner will primarily be used to simulate the behaviour of nuclear weapons, but will also be used for astronomy, genomics and climate change research. Last weekend, to put it through its paces, researchers ran a program called PetaVision, which models more than 1 billion neurons and trillions of synapses in the human visual system.
While running this program, Roadrunner broke the world record for computing performance: it operated at petaflop per second processing speeds, performing a mind-boggling million billion (or quadrillion) calculations per second.